By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
KIRKLAND LAKE – Ashton Amaya’s second goal of the game 25 seconds into overtime lifted the Gold Miners to a 6-5 win over the Timmins Rock Friday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
It was the first game following the NOJHL’s Christmas break and both teams looked rusty at times during the contest.
The Rock dominated the opening 20 minutes of play and took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room after outshooting their hosts 12-7 during the first period of play.
Jacob Shankar got the visitors on the scoresheet first, as he scored his 14th goal of the season, a power-play marker, at the 4:45 mark.
Kevin Fort got the Gold Miners back on even terms just under four minutes later when he netted his 24th goal of the season.
The Rock reclaimed their one goal lead at the 12 minute mark of the opening frame, as blue-liner Grant McClellan scored his fourth goal of the season, also a power-play marker.
Things got off to a rocky start for the visitors in the second period, however, as Timmins was late getting onto the ice for the start of the frame and they were assessed a delay of game penalty.
Twenty seconds later things went from bad to worse for the Rock, as goalie Albert Rogers was assessed a delay of game penalty for firing the puck over the glass while attempting to clear it from his zone.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was not a happy camper following those two developments.
“We have been late getting on the ice many times this season,” he said.
“We were nonchalant in the dressing room. We let the players know there were three minutes left and we are not happy about that. We are really not happy.
“Then, we get another delay of game penalty with the goalie shooting the puck over the plexiglass giving them a five-on-three. That put us behind the 8-ball.”
With the Gold Miners enjoying a two-man advantage, Amaya scored his first goal of the night and 18th of the season to tie things up at 2-2.
The Gold Miners took their first lead of the night midway through the second period, just after a five-on-three advantage had expired but they were still on the power play.
Tyler Fyfe scored his first of two goals on the night and 13th of the season.
Just over five minutes later, William Mizuik beat Rogers for his 15th goal of the season to put Kirkland Lake in front 4-2.
That’s the way the score remained heading into the second intermission.
The Rock were able to rally in the third period to retake the lead, however, with the third line leading the way.
Alexandre Brisson’s 13th goal of the season, an unassisted effort, cut the Gold Miners lead to 4-3 3:25 into the third period.
Cole Gilligan’s first of two goals on the night and 17th of the season four-and-a-half minutes later got the Rock back on even terms.
Gilligan’s second goal of the night and 18th of the season, with just 4:38 remaining in regulation, then put the Rock up 5-4.
“Going into the third period, we were down by two goals and that third line (Gilligan, Stewart Parnell and Brisson) of ours was incredible. They are playing like third liners, but we have some players on our second line who are not playing like second-line players and we have some players on our first line who are not playing like first-line players right now.
“That’s why we are losing points here and there. Right now, our leadership is coming from our third line and it is not just offensively. They put their heart into it, they work hard and they are involved. They score, they backcheck, they bite, they scratch, they do whatever it takes.”
The Rock were unable to hold onto their one-goal advantage, however, as defenceman Jared Hester — playing in his first game since suffering an upper-body injury prior to the break — attempted to play the puck at his own blue-line instead of taking his man.
When the puck hopped over Hester’s stick, Fyfe broken in all alone and beat Rogers for his second goal of the game and 14th of the season with 2:41 remaining on the clock.
That goal forced overtime and it did not take Amaya long to deposit the game-winning goal behind Rogers to send the 256 fans in attendance home happy.
Gagne took little consolation from the fact the Rock were able to escape Kirkland Lake with a single point Friday night.
“What I am really not happy about is that five of the six goals we gave up were all scored from in tight,” he said.
“They were all generated from down low and assignments were not being completed. I don’t care what kind of goalie you have in net, it could be Carey Price or Patrick Roy, they were scoring from three or four feet in front of the net, every time, except for the slap shot.
“I am disappointed, because we lost one point, but on the positive side we were really able to turn things around. Going into the third period, we were down by two and I thought we had a pretty good third period.”
Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was happy with the two points his team earned Friday night, but not so much with how they were able to achieve that goal.
“It was a very ugly win,” he said.
“As a coaching staff, we are happy to get the two points, but we were not happy with the process. There were a lot of mistakes made out there that we do not typically make. I don’t know if we can attribute it to the Christmas break, or whatnot, but out puck management was atrocious.
“There are certain guys who had really bad nights and they are going to have to pick it up. We did not have our A game by any means. Our compete level was not there. We played well in spurts.”
There were, of course, a few Gold Miners who did impress their coach Friday night.
“You look at Alex Storjohann, who is definitely an elite player in our league,” Lafleur said.
“You look at the game-winner. He dangled through a couple of guys and set up Amaya. He is one of those guys who showed leadership tonight.
“I thought guys like Dionne Demke, who we obtained right before Christmas, had a pretty good game tonight, as well. We are just looking for guys who are going to manage the puck well and give 100% every single time they are on the ice.”
Forward Patrick Smith (33, 7-27-34, 16), who was acquired from the Espanola Express, made his debut in a Gold Miners uniform Friday night.
“He is going to add offensive depth to our lineup,” Lafleur said.
“He is still learning our systems and what we expect from him. It will take a little time, but he will get accustomed to our system.”
Allan Menary stopped 27 of the 32 shots the Rock fired at him to pick up the win for the Gold Miners.
Rogers turned aside 28 of the 34 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — Despite the overtime loss, the Rock were able to gain a point on the Crunch who dropped a 4-3 decision to the Powassan Voodoos in Cochrane Friday night. The Rock now trail the Crunch by six points in the standings, but have five games in hand on Cochrane … The three stars of the game were Amaya, Fyfe and Brisson … The Rock went 2-3 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 2-5 with the man advantage … The Rock did not dress blue-liner Spencer Segui, who suffered a facial injury the last time the two teams met on Dec. 17 at the McIntyre Arena … Timmins Majors defenceman Frederic Leclair-Pouw made his debut in a Rock uniform as an affiliate player. Forward Evan Kentish-Stack, who also plays for the Majors, played his fourth game for the Rock Friday night … The Rock have acquired forward Maxime Lague (4,0-0-0, 4), from the La Ronge Ice Wolves, of the SJHL. Lague, a 19-year-old native of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu who stands 6-3 and weighs 201 pounds, has also spent time with the Alexandria Glens (3, 0-0-0, 0), of the CCHL, this season.