UPDATE / GALLERY: Rock woes against Lumberjacks continue with loss in Hearst

Photos: Northern Lights Photography

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

HEARST — The Timmins Rock twice blew one-goal leads and ended up dropping a 4-2 decision to the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Recreation Centre Sunday afternoon.

It was the first loss for the NOJHL’s East Division leading Rock (24-11-2-0) since the calendar turned to 2024, but it could prove to be a costly one as the second-place Lumberjacks (20-11-3-2) are now just five points behind Timmins — and they have a game in hand.

The Rock had started the weekend with a one-sided 10-2 win over the Iroquois Falls Storm on home ice Friday night, but they just could not match the intensity of the Lumberjacks Sunday afternoon.

To say Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry didn’t like what he saw from his squad Sunday afternoon might be the understatement of the century.

“We are just such a mentally weak group against these guys it’s unbelievable,” he said.

“We can’t beat them. It doesn’t matter what the standings are, whoever finishes first, or whatever, those numbers don’t matter. If we meet them in the playoffs, are depth guys are going to play great, our top guys are going to play bad.”

Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes of play, with the Lumberjacks outshooting the Rock 14-8.

The Rock were able to draw first blood, thanks to Ryan Armitage’s seven goal of the season, 3:26 into the middle frame, but once again the Lumberjacks outshot the Rock 17-10.

The teams exchanged goals before the second intermission, with Aiden Kalin tying things up for Hearst on a power-play marker, his 13th goal of the season, and Thomas Beard restoring the Rock’s advantage, with his 11th tally of the campaign.

Asked if there were things in particular the Rock were doing well when they led the contest 1-0 and 2-1, their coach replied: “No, not really anything out of the ordinary. It was a back and forth game, just a hockey game, two good teams playing, back and forth.

“Our fourth line got us going, got us on the board in the second period, which was great. Our depth (players) did their jobs and got us on the board.”

However, the third period was all Hearst as the Lumberjacks scored three-straight unanswered goals to claim the victory.

Liam Boswell’s power-play marker, his 15th goal of the season, tied the score at 2-2, 1:44 into the frame.

Former Rock forward Tyler Patterson 24th goal of the season, an unassisted marker, then provided the margin of victory for the Lumberjacks shortly after the midway mark in the period.

Just 18 seconds later, Mathieu Comeau provided a little insurance for Hearst when he netted his 12th goal of the season.

The Rock pulled goalie Patrick Boivin in favour of an extra attacker with 1:25 remaining on the clock, but they were unable to cut into the Lumberjacks’ lead.

Just like he identified what had been going well through two periods of play, the Rock coach was equally able to put his finger on what went wrong during the third period.

“We can’t kill penalties,” Perry said.

“Two power-play goals against, again, we just can’t do it. I don’t know what it is, we watched video on it, guys said they knew it, we practiced it, and we just couldn’t do it, we can’t kill penalties.

“Then, we go D to D in the neutral zone, our D had all kinds of time to make a play, didn’t make it, turn it (the puck) over, hooks a guy, takes a penalty and it’s in the back of our net.”

The coach was not happy with the Rock’s (Mason Svarich, Harry Clark and Nolan Ring) top line, either.

“Every time we play them, our top line is non-existent,” Perry said.

“They just won’t do it, but they love showing up to play against Iroquois Falls and Kirkland Lake. I bet you they will be flying around Friday night (at home against the Gold Miners), but not when we need them the most.”

Asked if it might be time to break up the unit, or if it is just a matter of them pulling up their socks, Perry said, “They just have to do it, or they sit. If you have to bench your top line for the last 10 minutes in a two-goal hockey game, you are probably not doing enough to win the game.”

Despite the loss there were a number of Rock players who caught their coach’s eye in a positive light Sunday afternoon.

“(Lucas) Lowe, (Hayden) Rynard and Beard were great again,” Perry said.

“Armitage, (Jack) Anderson and (Jayden) Lyons were great. (Captain) Felix Cadieux-Fredette was great on the back end, (Tenzin) Nyman was good and Liam Wells had some good moments.”

Lumberjacks goalie Tristan Boileau turned aside 28 of the 30 shots the Rock directed his way to pick up his 12th win of the season.

Boivin, who blocked 35 of the 39 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Sunday’s game were Comeau, Boswell and Kalin … The Rock went 0-2 on the power play Sunday, while the Lumberjacks were 2-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Recreation Centre on Sunday was 634 … Sunday’s other action saw the Greater Sudbury Cubs get past the Rapids 3-1 in French River and the Beavers blank the Espanola Paper Kings 2-0 in Blind River. The Rock will return to action on Friday when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.