THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Timmins Rock forward Derek Seguin lifts a shot up and over the right shoulder of Soo Eagles goalie Joseph Benedetto for his NOJHL-leading 16th goal of the season during the second period of Saturday night’s game at the McIntyre Arena. It would not be enough, however, as the Eagles scored late to earn a 3-2 victory in the final game of their three-game road trip. The Rock will return to action on Sunday when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is 2 p.m.
Charley Hanewall’s goal with 27.48 seconds remaining in regulation lifted the Soo Eagles to a 3-2 win over the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
It was the second-straight loss for the Rock who had handed the Eagles a 4-2 setback at Pullar Stadium in the Sault, Mich., seven days earlier.
“It was a tough loss, but things like this happen,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the game to overtime. We showed good resiliency to come back in the third period and tie the game.
“It was just one of those goals that gets in the back of your net and gets through a bunch of guys.”
Following a scoreless first period, it was the Rock who got on the scoreboard first Saturday night — thanks to Derek Seguin’s NOJHL-leading 16th goal of the season at the 2:58 mark of the middle frame.
The Rock held that 1-0 advantage until late in the second period, but the Eagles struck for a pair of goals four minutes apart to turn a one-goal deficit into a one-goal advantage.
Raf Praysner scored the first of those two markers, his fifth goal of the season, to tie things up.
Then, Kyle Quinn put the visitors in front 2-1 when he added his fifth goal of the season with just 19.30 seconds remaining in the frame.
The Rock were able to get back on even terms less than five minutes into the third period when Josh Dickson banged home a rebound from a scramble in front of the Eagles net for his seventh goal of the season.
That unassisted marker stood up until the final minute of the third period when Hanewall’s game-winning goal stunned the 887 fans in attendance and made the final score 3-2 in favour of the Eagles.
In the days leading up to the contest, Beer had cautioned the Eagles are not a team to be taking lightly, regardless of their won-loss record, and that certainly appeared to be the case Saturday night.
“We had some good details outlined for how we wanted to beat them,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we had a group of defencemen wanted to do things their own way tonight. You do that and you keep passing pucks into bad areas instead of reversing it out like we had discussed and …
“It wasn’t pretty back there tonight, that’s for sure. That Soo club comes at you in waves and if you can’t reverse the field, you are in trouble.”
Despite the heart-breaking loss, Beer was pleased with the effort put forth by some of his Rock players Saturday night.
“Will Caston obviously played monster minutes with some injuries on the back end and Eric Moreau had probably one of his better games,” he said.
“He played more minutes than he is accustomed to playing.
“Our Top 6 forwards, I am so impressed with them. That line of Seguin (Keegan) McMullen and (Riley) Robitaille is dominant.
“Then, you look at a line like (Eamon) Bollinger, Dickson and (Riley) Brousseau and they were fantastic.
“The problem is after that it tails off. We got zero contribution from those other guys and you can’t be a two-line team and win in this league.”
Eagles coach Doug LaPrade was happy to see his squad wrap up a three-game road trip — that included a 7-2 loss to the Lumberjacks in Hearst Thursday night and 3-1 loss to the Crunch in Cochrane Friday night —with a victory.
“I am really pleased with the way we played,” he said.
“It might honestly be one of the best games, if not the best game, we have played all season.
“We were very good defensively and we weren’t very good defensively last night. So, to come back and play the way we did tonight after last night, I am really excited.”
Fans who watched Saturday night’s contest were likely scratching their heads wondering why the Eagles do not have more wins on the season.
“I think we have gotten outshot maybe twice all year,” LaPrade said.
“We just haven’t had the scoring touch. The kids have been working their tails off and we have been in every game.
“I think in our 13 losses, 11 of them are one- or two-goal games. We are working hard and we are getting there.”
Beating the Rock in Timmins a week after they had double the Eagles 4-2 at Pullar Stadium provided a big boost to the visitors, as well.
“Every win is important, regardless of whether it is at home or on the road,” LaPrade said.
There was no shortage of Eagles who caught their coach’s eye Saturday night.
“Obviously, our goaltender, Joe Benedetto has been playing very well for us,” LaPrade said.
“Having somebody we are confident will stop all the shots he is supposed to stop and maybe a couple he is not supposed to is big for us.
“We have got Charley Hanewall, who scored the winning goal today. It was his first goal of the season, but he has had probably 10, 12 really good opportunities. I think he had three or four tonight and finally one went in for him.
“Our captain, Brendan Blair, is a good leader. When he is on the ice I am pretty confident he is going to have a good shift.
“Other than that, everybody worked really hard today. We have some young kids who are starting to get it. Hopefully, we can continue this.”
With Saturday’s loss, the Rock’s reign as the top squad in the NOJHL officially came to an end.
The Rock (13-7-1-0), in fact, have fallen all the way back to third in the East Division standings — two points behind the Powassan Voodoos (14-6-1-0) and one point behind the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (14-4-0-0).
Their next opponent, the Soo Thunderbirds (14-4-0-0) — who are first in the West Division standings — are also one point up on the Rock following Saturday’s action.
Meanwhile, the Eagles (8-13-0-0) are now just two points back of the Elliot Lake Wildcats for fourth place in the West Division standings.
Eagles goalie Joseph Benedetto turned aside 23 of the 25 shots the Rock directed his way to pick up his seventh win of the season.
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak, who stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced in the contest, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Hanewall, Seguin and Benedetto … Robitaille was ejected from the game after receiving a five-minute major for checking to the head/neck and a game misconduct as time expired in the third period … The Rock did not dress forward Tyler Hutchison (serving a one-game suspension), defenceman Carson Burlington (upper-body injury), forward Mahingan Decontie (lower-body injury) and defenceman James Redmond (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Eagles were 0-3 with the man advantage … Saturday’s other action saw the Soo Thunderbirds double the Crunch 6-3 in Cochrane, the Voodoos come back to edge the Blind River Beavers 3-2 in overtime in Powassan and the Rapids thump the Elliot Lake Wildcats 8-3 in French River … The Rock will return to action on Sunday when they host the Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday. Game time is set for 2 p.m.