By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
KIRKLAND LAKE – Brayden Stortz scored three goals and added an assist to lead the Gold Miners to a 7-1 win over the Timmins Rock at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Thursday night.
It was the fifth-straight loss and the six in the past seven games for the Rock, who will be looking to break out of their late-season slump when they host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
“The first three goals they scored, we didn’t even compete,” said a frustrated Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“We made four mistakes and got three goals scored against us. They outshot us something like 15-5 (10-5) in the first period. They had 11 shots from inside the house. That’s self explanatory.
“Three goals and if it wasn’t for (Rock goalie) Devon (Debastos), they could have scored 10 goals.”
The Rock had no answer for the Gold Miners’ dynamic duo of Stortz and Logan Fredericks Thursday night.
Fredericks gave the Gold Miners a 1-0 lead early in the first period when he beat Debastos — a former Gold Miner — for his 45th goal of the season.
Just over two-and-a-half minutes later Fredericks and Stortz set up Andrew Crodssen-David for his third goal of the season to put the home side in front 2-0.
The Gold Miners increased their lead to three goals midway through the opening period when Stortz struck for his 34thgoal of the season, a power-play marker.
Despite giving up three goals in the opening period, Debastos came up with a number of big saves to keep the game within reach for the Rock.
The visitors played better in the second period, but the Gold Miners were able to extend their lead to 4-0 when Stortz netted his second goal of the game and 35th of the season at the 14:55 mark.
“I thought we had a great second period,” Gagne said.
“We played really well. We only gave them three really good chances and they scored on one of them. I think we had 15 chances in the second period.”
The Rock finally got on the scoresheet early in the third period, as Tristan Salesse scored his 31st goal of the season to spoil the shutout bid of Gold Miners goalie Joe Marcouller.
Any momentum the visitors gained from their only goal was quickly dissipated, however, as Stortz completed his hat-trick by scoring his 36th goal of the season less than two-and-a-half minutes later to put the Gold Miners in front 5-1.
“That fifth goal, the puck was going to be an icing and it wasn’t and icing, which was a good call,” Gagne said.
“Our player was on the puck first but their player gets the puck and gets his stick, also, no compete whatsoever, bang, pass, goal. There is no reason for that. It should have been a hard rim, protect the puck.
“The third period, we were making cross ice passes not on the tape, passes up the slot and they would intercept. We don’t play that style of hockey, but right now we are in a bit of a funk mentally. It’s incredible.
“It’s just ridiculous, but they (Rock players) are having fun apparently.”
Things went from bad to worse for the Rock when Gold Miner Dalton Anderson scored his ninth goal of the season — a shorthanded marker — at the 8:15 mark of the final period.
Then, to add insult to injury, Joel Fortin buried his 17th goal of the season — the second-straight shorthanded marker for the Gold Miners — with just 1.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
“It’s a game of mistakes and the mistakes are getting ridiculous,” Gagne said.
“In the second period, we had all those shots and we made them make mistakes, but when it comes to us, we make our own mistakes. That’s the difference right now. We are just making our own mistakes, over and over. It doesn’t matter if it’s an 18 year old or a 20 year old. It is self explanatory.”
The Rock will look to snap out of their funk Saturday night when they host the Rapids — a team that gained only its second victory of the season, 10-6 when the squads met in French River on Feb. 20.
The Rock’s shoddy defensive effort in that contest made a pair of 16-year-old Rapids — Caleb Rich and Brett McInall — look like the second coming of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
“We need to compete, like we did in the second period tonight, and not make mistakes, if we hope to beat them,” Gagne said.
“Other teams don’t even have to forecheck or work hard against us. As soon as we have the puck, we make mistakes. We just have to eliminate that. I don’t understand why this is happening. They don’t want to keep it simple. They want to do it their way and their way is not working.”
Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was — for the most part — pleased with his team’s play Thursday night.
“I liked our start tonight, but they took it to us I would say from about the half-way point in the first period to the half-way point of the second period,” he said.
“They played great, but our guy (Marcouller) made some great saves to keep the score the way it was. If it had not been for that we could have seen a very different third period.
“Somebody might look at the final score and say it was lopsided, but I really don’t think it was. I am not happy with the turnovers we had, but when we did go into their zone we had a lot of sustained pressure tonight.
“We moved the puck around and we waited for holes and openings to happen and that’s how we got our chances.”
Like the fans, Lafleur was impressed with the play of his top snipers Thursday night, but a number of other Gold Miners made a positive impression, as well.
“Logan and Brayden have been so hot for us lately,” he said.
“They were terrific tonight for us.
“Kameron Shearer, who is 16 years old right now, the way he forechecks and mucks it out in the corners, was great. We really like how he is coming along. And Andrew Crodssen-David, who has only been back with us now for the last two weeks and being out for two months, has really been putting in a lot of minutes for us and he is really producing, both offensively and defensively.
“Joe Marcouller, for a guy who has played high school hockey and just came in, we put right in the fire and he has responded well.”
NOJHL Notes — The three stars of the game were Stortz, Fredericks and Marcouller … Rock defenceman Ryan Kerr and Marc-Antoine Arseneau, of the Gold Miners, were ejected from the game after receiving five-minutes majors for fighting and game misconducts midway through the first period. Arseneau also received a two-minute minor penalty for instigating the tussle … The Rock did not dress forward Aaron Kerr (serving the first game of a three-game suspension), defenceman Andrew Castagna (lower-body injury) and goalie Matthew Nixon (healthy scratch) … The Rock went 0-7 on the power play and surrendered two shorthanded goals, while the Gold Miners went 1-3 with the man advantage … official attendance at the the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 350.