KIRKLAND LAKE — The Joe Mavrinac Community Complex remains a house of horrors for the Timmins Rock — and not just because Thursday night’s 4-3 setback against the Gold Miners marked their third-straight defeat on its ice surface this season.
During the Rock’s first visit to the facility locals fondly call “The Joe” on Sept. 13, the Rock lost forward Stewart Parnell to a season-ending upper-body injury.
Thursday night, one period and one goal into his Rock career, the visitors lost newly acquired forward Benjamin Jossinet to what the NOJHL club is hoping will be a less-severe upper-body injury.
As a result of Thursday night’s setback, the Rock (18-10-1-0) now find themselves four points back of the NOJHL-leading Gold Miners (20-8-1-0), tied with the Powassan Voodoos (18-9-1-0) — who have a game in hand.
“We got a tough break there at the end of the game,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“They kept coming and unfortunately some of our guys have a tough time picking up trailers on plays, defencemen staying with their guys.
“That K.L. team is an educated bunch on shot placement. We held them to 22 shots, but they were shooting for rebounds and they were not missing the net. They did not have too many wasted opportunities.”
Things started out on a positive note for the Rock Thursday night, as Jossinet’s first goal of the season gave them a 1-0 lead at the 7:29 mark of the opening period.
The Gold Miners were able to get back on even terms five-and-a-half minutes later when Alex Elie potted his seventh goal of the season.
A Keegan McMullen power-play marker, his ninth goal of the season, allowed the Rock to regain the lead, 2-1, before the end of the frame, however.
The Rock were able to expand their lead to 3-1 six-and-a-half minutes into the second period on a power-play tally off the stick of defenceman Owen Shier, his third goal of the season.
That goal signaled the end of Gold Miners starting goalie Gregory Brassard’s night, as he was given the hook with Dawson Rodin coming on in relief.
The move paid dividends a minute and a half later when Patrick Murphy struck for a shorthanded marker, his sixth goal of the season, to cut the Rock lead to a single goal.
Then, just under seven minutes later, the momentum swing continued with Vinny DeSanctis striking for his eighth goal of the season to deadlock the contest at 3-3.
It appeared overtime might be required to decide the contest, but Joshua Maine provided the game-winning tally, his eighth goal of the season, with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
Beer admitted the Gold Miners’ second-period goaltending change helped to swing the momentum in favour of the home side, but he felt his squad didn’t do enough to swing it back in their favour.
“The big thing for us was we didn’t have the sustainability tonight without (Eamon) Bollinger and (Josh) Dickson in the lineup,” he said.
“We didn’t have the consistency up front. We had too many guys who were just having average shifts. The drop off after the (Derek) Seguin, (Riley) Robitaille and McMullen line was just too much.
“We had guys missing rimmed pucks in the offensive zone and chasing the puck everywhere.
“Unfortunately, when that happens we are chasing the game too much. It happens, but we have to try and be better.”
While no coach likes to see his squad blow a two-goal lead on the road, Beer did like the way the Rock were able to build their 3-1 advantage.
“We made some adjustments on our power play and we got a couple of timely goals that way,” he said.
“We didn’t play a bad hockey game from any means, it was just a difference from being able to hold the lead and grind teams down and guys maybe being selfish, maybe that’s not the word, but chasing the game for results.
“We made some adjustments in our neutral zone and some lines did it, but other lines didn’t and the next thing you know they (Kirkland Lake) had some offensive-zone face-offs, as opposed to neutral-zone face-offs.
“It is just game management 101. I still think as a club, we are young and even some of our veteran guys don’t know enough on how to limit other teams from having odd-man rushes against us.
“We had two veteran players tonight who wasted pucks from below the goal line and it was an instant three-on-two the other way. When you play an opportunistic team, it is going to bite you.”
Beer realizes, of course, the Rock were playing a pretty good Gold Miners squad Thursday night.
“They have a team that builds off its own momentum,” he said.
“How do you slow them down in their building? You can’t just go out and try and emulate the line in front of you. You have to play to your strengths.
“I think some of our guys tonight thought, ‘Hey, if Seguin, Robitaille and McMullen can do this, we can do it too.’ When you try to be that aggressive in certain spots and you don’t have the skill level you need to support it, you do put yourself in a very tough position.
“I thought a few lines and a few defencemen tried to put the game on their sticks, as opposed to making the right play.”
While the coach’s first look at Jossinet in game action was a lot more brief than he would have liked, he came away impressed.
“He was terrific right up until the point where he separated his shoulder on the first shift in the second period,” Beer said.
“We are hoping for some good news, but he is in a sling right now.
“I thought the kid looked great. He flashed some phenomenal speed and scored a gorgeous goal on a backhand-forehand move.
“We really hope he is not out long term because he looks like a player who can supply some of that scoring depth that we need.”
The Prince George, B.C., native was not the only Rock player to impress his coach Thursday night.
“On the back end, I thought Will Caston and Carson Burlington were very good,” Beer said.
“They made the right plays everywhere and they were good on their gaps.
“Seguin, Robitaille and McMullen were good, as well. We challenged them to be the best line on the ice and in my opinion they were.
“The issue was just our consistency level throughout the lineup. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough of it tonight.”
With the Rock in the midst of a streak that will see them play three games in four nights, fans will finally get an opportunity to see Jean-Marc Brisson man the Timmins net.
“Breezer will be going Friday, for sure,” Beer said.
“He deserves it. He has been working hard in practice. We know what we have in him, but we want to see him in our uniform in our home rink.
“It will be a good chance for him to face one of his former clubs, as well.”
Rodin, who stopped all 23 shots he faced in relief, earned his seventh win of the season in a Gold Miners uniform. Brassard blocked nine of the 12 shots directed his way before he was given the hook.
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak, who made 18 saves in the contest, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Maine, Gold Miners forward Sam Elwood (one assist) and Rock defenceman Josh Anderson (one assist) … The Rock did not dress Bollinger (upper-body injury), Dickson (upper-body injury), forward Brendan Burns (healthy scratch) and defenceman Eric Moreau (healthy scratch) … The Rock went 2-4 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 487 … Thursday’s only other contest saw the Canadians double up the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-2 in Rayside-Balfour … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they host the Hearst Lumberjacks in the first half of a home-and-home series at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of CapturingTheMoment.ca