By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Saturday, September 12, 2015 2:16:00 EDT AM
KIRKLAND LAKE – Brandon Wolfe’s second goal of the game lifted the Gold Miners to a 4-2 win over the Timmins Rock at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.
The first regular-season game for both NOJHL squads had been deadlocked at 2-2 until Wolfe drilled a shot past Rock goalie Logan Ferrington 4:36 into the third period.
Seventeen-year-old Hearst native Joel Fortin fired a shot into the empty net with 46 seconds remaining on the clock and Ferrington on the bench in favour of an extra attacker to seal the deal and send the crowd of 409 fans home happy.
Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was pleased with his team’s effort — for the most part — on opening night.
“I thought defensively we were sound for the most part,” he said.
“Our penalty kill was very good tonight a lot of guys made sacrifices.
“I was, however, not happy with our composure. I am not going to say things after the whistle. It was just very inappropriate penalties.
“Our puck management was not good, either, to say the least. I just thought they outworked us, which I am not particularly very happy about.”
Wolfe’s first goal of the game, a power-play marker, midway through the first period had staked the Gold Miners to a 1-0 lead.
Lafleur was pleased with the offensive contributions of Wolfe’s line, but it was Fortin who drew the most praise from his coach.
“Wolfe capitalized on his opportunities and that line clicked very well,” he said.
“The guy who really stuck out for me tonight, though, is Joel Fortin. There is a reason why the guys selected him to wear one of the letters (A for assistant captain) for our hockey team as a 17 year old.
“He must have had six of seven blocked shots in the third period alone.
“It’s great that Wolfe and that line got a couple of goals, but for me you have to look on the other side and the guy blocking six or seven shots on his own, for me, that’s the unsung hero.”
The Rock got back on even terms 5:25 into the second period, as Jordan Rendle fired a shot past Kirkland Lake goalie Marc Audet.
As the Rock celebrated the goal the Gold Miners Brayden Stortz drilled Devin Panzeca with a fist to the head that sprawled the Rock forward on the ice for a couple of minutes.
The move earned the first-year Gold Miner a trip to the sin bin, but the Rock weren’t able to convert on the power play.
Kirkland Lake regained the lead eight minutes later, as Stortz atoned for his earlier transgression by beating Ferrington with the go-ahead goal.
It appeared the Gold Miners would take a one-goal lead into the dressing room for the second intermission, but Mike Norris converted a nifty cross-crease pass from Ravinder Shokar to deadlock things at 2-2 with 16 seconds remaining on the clock.
That set the stage for Wolfe’s game-winning heroics.
Lafleur was not surprised by the tightness of the game, or the closeness of the score.
“I knew they would come here to play,” he said.
“They have a very solid team. They play well. They compete very well. It was just a couple of plays that made the difference tonight.
“They are a solid team and not enough people are giving these guys credit.”
Neither team reported any significant injuries from Friday night’s game, but a few bumps and bruises.
“It was a hard-fought victory and a lot of times you pay a price for getting two points,” Lafleur said.
“We have a couple of guys with bumps and bruises, but nothing major.”
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was pleased with most aspects of Friday night’s hockey game, with the exception of the final score.
“This was our first game and playing on the road, playing against a team that will be hosting the Dudley Hewitt Cup, and we know we can get better,” he said.
“We had four guys out of the lineup, so I have only positive things to say about tonight’s game and the way we played.
“Three mistakes were made and they turned into goals, so that tells me we eliminated most of our mistakes.
“We had our opportunities. When there were five minutes left, we went on the power play and we took a penalty, which killed our momentum, but other than that we competed.
“They (the Gold Miners) played well. We played well. In the second period they gave it to us quite a bit. We were in the defensive zone for about eight minutes but we only gave them two good opportunities and we made it a close game.”
One area of concern for the coach was the number of times Gold Miners players collided with Ferrington.
“I can’t really understand that,” Gagne said.
“I don’t think it was a tactic. I think it was just individual stuff where players took matters into their own hands.
“When that happens, you really want to capitalize on your power play.”
No such luck for the Rock, however, as they failed to score on either goalie interference penalty and in fact went 0-8 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-4 with the man advantage.
Audet turned aside 20 of the 22 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Gold Miners, while Ferrington stopped 31 of the 34 Gold Miners shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock and the Gold Miners will play the second half of their home-and-home series Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. … The Rock were forward Kyle Levis, who was serving the first game of a four-game suspension, defenceman Justin Mendoza, transfer paperwork issues, and defenceman Tyler Somers, recovering from off-season surgery, to start the game and lost forward Tyler Romain, a former Gold Miner, to a broken skate during the second period.