Timmins Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced to backstop his squad to a 3-1 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks in Game 6 of the NOJHL’s East Division final series at the Claude Larose Arena Wednesday night. The two sides will clash in the seventh and deciding game of the series at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS / Photo: Marc Johnson
After being pushed to the brink of elimination on home ice Monday night, the Timmins Rock rose up to dump the Lumberjacks 3-1 at the Claude Larose Arena Wednesday night.
As a result of the victory, the best-of-seven NOJHL East Division final series is deadlocked at 3-3 heading back to the McIntyre Arena for Game 7 Friday night.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was happy to see his squad rebound from their 3-2 overtime loss in Game 5 Monday night.
“We played fantastic, one heck of a hockey game,” he said.
“I like our group. I like the character of our group. Our backs were against the wall and I knew whatever the outcome was, we were going to play really hard.”
The task of trying to even the series was even more daunting for the Rock given they were without their captain, Tyler Schwindt, who received a two-game suspension after being ejected from Game 5 of the series when he was assessed a five-minute major penalty for head contact and a game misconduct with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
Nolan Ring stepped into Schwindt’s spot on the Rock’s top line, with Nicolas Pigeon and Harry Clark and impressed Perry.
“Nolan Ring was rewarded for how hard he has been playing,” he said.
“We have guys like him, lower down in our lineup, who when spots open up they can jump up and play, do really well with the minutes.
“He is a perfect example. He is a great young player who works so hard and is so good on the penalty kill.
“Those three guys were so good tonight. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
The Rock, who outshot the Lumberjacks 14-11 in the first period jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 2:22 remaining on the clock, courtesy of Gabinien Kioki’s unassisted marker, his second goal of the playoffs.
Pigeon’s sixth goal of the playoffs, 1:46 into the middle frame, allowed the Rock to extend their advantage to 2-0.
And Christopher Engelbert followed with his second goal of the playoffs 32 seconds later to make it a 3-0 hockey game.
That goal spelled the end of Lumberjacks starting goalie Matteo Gennaro’s night, as he was lifted with Liam Oxner coming on in relief.
Oxner shut the door on the Rock, but his Lumberjacks were unable to generate any offence until late in the third period.
With 2:01 remaining in regulation and Oxner on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, former Rock forward Tyler Patterson finally got the Lumberjacks on the scoreboard when he notched his fifth goal of the playoffs.
That would be as close as the Lumberjacks would come to getting back on even terms, however, leaving the final score 3-1 in favour of the Rock.
“They didn’t have much the whole game, until they pulled their goalie,” Perry said.
“We ran into some penalty trouble in the second period and they got a bunch of shots, but (Rock goalie Gavin) McCarthy was solid.
“Gavin was fantastic. It was the best game I have seen him play all season.
“Five-on-five, they didn’t have much. We played extremely well.”
The Rock coach was happy to see his squad get offensive contributions from three different lines Wednesday night.
“Kioki’s goal was just a great backchecking effort by him,” Perry said.
“He just lifted the stick, picked up the puck and went in and we saw the old Gabi Kioki shot we have been waiting to see.
“It was so nice to see him get rewarded. What a shot. He is just a phenomenal young man, a heart and soul guy.
“Then, on Nic Pigeon’s goal it was just a great effort by Harry Clark. He was great all game and Harry Clark has arguably been the best player all series, on either side.
“He is playing out of his mind. He is a great player.
“The line of Engelbert, Hank (Henry Brock) and (Nicholas) Frederick has been together and what a line.
“You want to talk about effort, just watch those guys play.”
Even though the Rock have won the last two games played at the Claude Larose Arena and lost the last played at the McIntyre Arena, they haven’t given any thoughts to petitioning the NOJHL to change the venue for Game 7.
“No, we are coming home baby,” Perry said.
And given the large crowds the Rock have drawn for the first three contests at the McIntyre Arena — 1,018 for Game 1, 1,068 for Game 2 and 1,211 for Game 5 — that makes sense.
“I would expect it to be pretty packed in there Friday night,” Perry said.
“The majority of the people you might have talked to before the series started would have said it was going to go seven games.
“It is going to seven and we have home ice, but that’s a hell of a hockey team they have over there.
“They are a resilient bunch and we expect them to come out swinging and play their best hockey.
“I know their guys are going to show up. Fans are not going to want to miss it, that’s for sure.”
One of the keys to the Rock’s success Wednesday night was a fast start and Perry is hoping to see the same thing Friday night.
“The game plan hasn’t changed much over the six games,” he said.
“It is just going to be a matter of us executing what we need to do.
“Tonight, it was face-offs and I think our guys were great in the face-off circles and limiting the time we were playing in our own zone.
“We have just got to show up and play hockey.”
McCarthy stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced to earn his seventh win of the playoffs.
Gennaro, who turned aside 14 of the 17 shots the Rock directed at him, was tagged with the loss.
Oxner blocked all 14 shots he faced during his 37:42 of relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were McCarthy, Rock forward Tyler Gilberds and Lumberjacks blue-liner Justin Carriere … Both the Rock and the Lumberjacks were 0-5 on the power play … Rock forward Dylan McElhinny served the second game of a two-game suspension he received for being assessed a two-minute minor for head contact in Game 4 of the series … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 721 … Game 7 will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m.