Hearst Lumberjacks forward Robbie Rutledge’s shot attempt deflects off Timmins blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette in front of Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy during the first period of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. The Lumberjacks battled back from a three-goal first-period deficit to defeat the Rock 5-4 in overtime. The Rock will host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena on Tuesday, at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
The Timmins Rock managed to salvage a single point from a two-game weekend home stand, as their second-half struggles continued.
Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
The Daily Press – GALLERY: Winless skid hits four
After dropping a 3-2 decision to the Soo Eagles at the McIntyre Arena Friday night, the Rock blew a 3-0 first-period lead Sunday afternoon as the Hearst Lumberjacks stormed back to claim a 5-4 overtime victory —their 12th-straight triumph.
As a result, the Rock (25-7-3-1) have fallen 10 points behind the Lumberjacks (31-7-2-0) and three points back of the Powassan Voodoos (26-10-4-1) in the battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
In addition, the latest Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 rankings, released on Monday, saw the Rock fall to No. 14 from No. 7, while the West Division-leading Soo Thunderbirds (28-5-2-3) moved up to No. 9 from No. 20 and the Lumberjacks remained at No. 11.
True, the Rock still have four games in hand on the Lumberjacks, five on the Voodoos and two on the Thunderbirds, but that won’t matter much if they are unable to right the ship soon.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry agreed his squad showed more effort Sunday afternoon than they had Friday night.
“Just not enough, not enough in either game,” he said.
Sunday afternoon, it looked like the Rock might have found a solution to their woes, for just over six minutes.
That’s how long it took the Rock to build up an impressive 3-0 advantage on their East Division rivals, who entered the contest looking for their first win at the McIntyre Arena in 2021-22.
“We got an early power play, got one (goal) and got a bit of momentum,” Perry said.
“Ended up getting a couple.”
Nolan Ring’s power-play marker, his eighth goal of the season, got the puck rolling just 1:43 into the contest.
Blue-liner Eric Moreau added his first goal of the campaign less than three minutes later.
And former Lumberjacks blue-liner Carson Cox added an unassisted marker, his first goal in a Rock uniform and sixth of the season to make it a 3-0 hockey game.
That goal signaled the end of the night for Lumberjacks starting goalie Liam Oxner, with Matteo Gennaro coming on in relief.
The change in netminders seemed to calm the Lumberjacks down and they were able to get on the scoreboard before the end of the opening period, thanks to Mathieu Comeau’s first of two goals on the night and 17th of the season.
While the two teams exchanged chances throughout the second period, the Rock were able to maintain their 3-1 advantage until late in the frame.
Then, four-straight Rock minor penalties created the perfect storm for the Lumberjacks to get back on even terms.
Robbie Rutledge notched a power-play marker, his 32nd goal of the season, with Rock captain Tyler Schwindt in the penalty box for roughing.
Then, with Rock blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz off for interference and fellow D-man Eric Moreau off for tripping, creating a two-man Lumberjacks’ advantage, and the start of blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette’s slashing penalty delayed, Raphael Lajeunesse netted his 20th goal of the season to tie things up at 3-3.
The Rock were able to escape the frame without any further damage being done and regroup during the second intermission.
And Harry Clark scored his first goal of the season 3:17 into the third period to put the Rock back in front 4-3.
The Lumberjacks responded just over five minute later, however, with Zachary Demers netting his 11th goal of the season to deadlock things at 4-4.
That’s the way the score remained, until Comeau found the back of the Rock net for his second goal of the game and 18th of the season at the 1:31 mark of overtime.
Understandably, Perry was clearly not in a very good mood following Sunday’s setback.
“We are a broken hockey club right now and we need to fix it,” he said.
Perry wasn’t even able to take any solace from the fact his squad at least salvaged a single point from Sunday afternoon’s contest.
“No, you blow a 3-0 lead, your captain takes selfish penalties, lets them get back into it,” he said.
“We were in the (penalty) box for the whole end of the second period. Our goalie never gave us a save. Just the way it goes.”
As bad as Sunday was, the Rock looked even more lethargic during Friday night’s loss to the Eagles.
“I don’t know what it is, but ever since the break we’re … just not in it. We have got to fix it.
“We are a good hockey team, so when we lose hockey games there is nobody to blame but ourselves and we are not winning hockey games right now.”
Since returning from the NOJHL’s COVID-19 extended Christmas break, the Rock have a record of 2-2-2-0, not up to their standard of play in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign.
“It is just not good enough, all around, top to bottom,” Perry said.
On the other hand, Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin was happy to see his squad battle back to earn its 12th-straight victory Sunday afternoon.
“Timmins came out strong, right from the get-go,” he said.
“The message when it was 3-0 was just chip away. Can’t look at it like it is 3-0. Just got to play one shift at a time.
“The boys battled back, tied it 3-3. They made it 4-3 and we got big goals from our kids tonight, Robbie Rutledge with two and Mathieu Comeau with two.
“The kids showed up tonight.”
Begin agreed the goaltending change after the third Rock goal helped to swing momentum in the game, although he stopped short of blaming Oxner for the Lumberjacks’ slow start.
“We have two No. 1s on our club, with Liam and Matteo,” he said.
“Matteo went in there and gave us confidence, making a couple of stops right after he got in the game.
“After that, we got a big first goal and just as the second period was (ending), we got a few power plays and we buried two (goals).”
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s contest, the Lumberjacks had not enjoyed much success on the ice of the McIntyre Arena.
“We talked about it before the game and I think there was only Liam Oxner, other than Tyler Patterson, who had won in this building,” Begin said.
“Last year, I think we lost all three games here and this year we were 0-2-1-0 coming in, so if you want to be a championship team you have got to be able to win in every barn.
“That’s what we are proving right now.”
Begin has been pleased with the play of 17-year-old forward Tyler Patterson (9, 4-3-7, 0), acquired from the Rock in exchange for Cox prior to the CJHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“Tyler brings a lot of speed and skill to our lineup,” he said.
“We are a pretty deep team offensively. We have got lots of players who can put the puck in the net and he is one of them.
“He brings a great attitude on the ice and he works really hard. We have been happy with his play.”
Patterson admitted it felt a little strange to be back at the McIntyre Arena, wearing another team’s uniform.
“Just showing up at the rink in general, it felt a little bit different, but it was really good to be back and see some of the guys,” he said.
Patterson hasn’t had any difficulties, so far, adjusting to new linemates with the Lumberjacks.
“I have been back and forth with Demers and Lajeunesse, and (Brayden) Palfi and (Ryan) Glazer,” he said.
“All four of those guys are so skilled it is easy to work with them. We just connect with each other out there.
“It all starts with them.”
Patterson was taken off guard by the trade, but he has enjoyed his time with the Lumberjacks.
“At first, it was a shock, but I heard Hearst really wanted me,” he said.
“It has been nothing but great news, great bunch of guys and I am really excited.”
Patterson is confident the Lumberjacks will be able to translate their current regular-season hot streak into playoff success once the post season rolls around.
“I think we have the best shot there is,” he said.
“We have a great group of guys. It is tight in there (dressing room). We are all doing the same thing and the goal at the end is the same.”
Gennaro, who turned aside 29 of the 30 shots the Rock directed his way during his 55:28 of relief, earned his 13th win of the season, while Oxner blocked two of the five shots he faced before getting the hook.
Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy, who made 34 saves on the 39 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game Sunday afternoon were Comeau, Pigeon and Lajeunesse, while Rosek, Frederick and Fiddes were honoured Friday night … The Rock went 1-3 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 2-6 with the man advantage Sunday afternoon. Friday night, the Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Eagles were 0-5 with the man advantage … Sunday afternoon’s other action saw the Powassan Voodoos dump the Red Wings 4-1 in Elliot Lake, the Espanola Express roll over the Crunch 6-0 in Cochrane and the Soo Thunderbirds blank the Rapids 6-0 in French River … The Rock will return to action Tuesday when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena, at 7 p.m.