Timmins Rock forward Austin Holmes jumps into the air while deflecting a point shot on Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Matt Kustra while being checked by defenceman Chris Pederson during the first period of Tuesday nightֹ’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena Kustra was able to make the save on the play and helped backstop the Lumberjacks to a 4-2 victory. The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Hearst Lumberjacks doubled up the Timmins Rock 4-2 Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena to move back into sole possession of fourth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
It was the Lumberjacks first victory at the McIntyre Arena and could not have come at a more opportune time for the visitors who are in a neck-and-neck battle with the Rock for home-ice advantage when the playoffs open.
Heading into the contest, the Lumberjacks (19-22-2-1) and the Rock 17-24-2-3) had been tied in the standings allow Hearst has two games in hand.
“It was a battle between two very defensive teams, with a lot of tight checking both ways,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“I think the shots were something like 15-10 (in favour of the Rock) through two periods.
“Anytime you have two teams that pay as much attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck as you did tonight, it is going to be a tight-checking affair.
“We had our chances, but maybe we were a little bit unlucky.”
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak, who had been named one of the NOJHL’s Three Stars of the Week earlier this week, did not look particularly sharp on either of the Lumberjacks’ first two goals.
“The second one for sure was a goal-scorers goal, through the five-hole,” Beer said.
“You talk to any good shooters around the league and anyone who can put the puck through the five-hole from the top of the circle is a pretty accurate shooter.
“We will look at the film on Wednesday and try to dissect it. I am sure he (Masternak) would like to have a couple of them back, but I still thought he played well for us.”
Things started out on a positive note for the Rock, as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Tyler Gilberds’ 10th goal of the season with 5:27 remaining in the first period.
Any momentum that goal might have given the home side was quickly dissipated, however, as Morgan Scriber scored with 40 seconds remaining in the frame to knot things up at 1-1.
It was the seventh goal of the season for the Lumberjacks forward.
A C.J. Bradburn power-play marker, his 14th goal of the season, put the Rock back in front 2-1 at the 3:21 mark of the second period.
Again, the Lumberjacks responded quickly, with Shadow Reuben netting his 11th goal of the season just 41 seconds later to deadlock things at 2-2.
Max Griffioen then netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal at the 1:16 mark of the third period.
The power-play marker was Griffioen’s 18th goal of the season.
The Lumberjacks then added to their lead with 2:21 remaining in the third period, as Spencer Silver potted his 15th goal of the season.
Costly mistakes at critical points of the contest proved to be the Achilles heel for the Rock Tuesday night.
“On the game-winning goal, there was a little breakdown on our penalty kill,” Beer said.
“One of our D didn’t pick up the backside man. It happens. It may sound a little bit like a broken record, but discipline was a bit of factor. You can’t take dumb penalties late in hockey games.”
Despite the loss, there were a number of Rock players who impressed their coach Tuesday night.
“Will Caston and Grant McClellan on the back end were absolute horses for us,” Beer said.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the job Linden Spencer and Evan Kentish-Staack did on the penalty kill. They were outstanding. (Derek) Seguin and Bradburn were also real good on the PK.
“On the other hand, our power play was not very workmanlike, that’s for sure. It really stung us. We had our chances and we didn’t capitalize. I didn’t like out puck movement at the top of the one-three-one. It was pretty poor.”
After watching Rock super fan Mike Blick rip a shot into the net through a target from centre ice during the Pizza Pizza Shoot To Win contest after the second period, Beer might consider getting him to provide a little tutelage to his players.
“That was pretty impressive,” he said.
“We were joking, saying we would be hard pressed to find a guy that accurate on our team. He might be next in line for our power play, for sure.”
The Rock got forward Riley Robitaille back from suspension after five games Tuesday night, but two other forwards remain out of the lineup.
“Stewart Parnell (upper-body) injury had a bit of a hiccup, but we are hoping for some good news,” Beer said.
“Wayne Mathieu (lower-body injury) remains week-to-week.
“We will see how those guys progress. Hopefully they can come back sooner rather than later.”
The Rock do not have a lot of time to regroup, as they will begin a home-and-home series with the Crunch Thursday night at the McIntyre Arena, before travelling to Cochrane for the rematch on Saturday night.
“After the emotions of the weekend (Golden Bears third-jersey night), this was a typical trap game,” Beer said.
“We will look at the video Wednesday to see what we can do better going into the first game against Cochrane. Hopefully, we can get our emotion level back up.”
After suffering three-straight losses at the McIntyre Arena, Lumberjacks coach Marc Lafleur was happy to see his squad earn a big victory Tuesday night.
“It feels good and I am really happy for the boys,” he said.
“Both sides have some injuries and we both had to battle through them.”
Lafleur agrees one of the keys to the victory was the Lumberjacks ability to respond quickly every time the Rock scored a goal.
“During the second intermission, we talked about the fact we showed a lot of resiliency during the first two periods,” he said.
“Then, we got a lucky break early in the third period and we capitalized on it.”
Another key was the compete level exhibited by the Lumberjacks Tuesday night.
“We won more one-on-one battles tonight than we had in all the other games we had played here this season combined,” Lafleur said.
“The guys came in ready to play. We knew it was a four-point game and we knew what it meant for us in the standings.”
While the coach was pleased with the effort put forth by his entire team Tuesday night, he opted to give a little extra praise to a couple of individuals.
“Spencer Silver has hustled the last couple of weeks and he has been getting more ice time,” Lafleur said.
“He scored a bit goal for us tonight to really seal the win. You look like a guy like Maxime Lacroix, on defence. He is just 18 years old, but he is honestly one of our heart and soul guys. He brings it every single game.
“I was also very happy with a guy like Sylvain Gravel, an affiliate player, who helped us out on the blue-line tonight. He didn’t look out of place at all.”
Lumberjacks goalie Matt Kustra was not overly busy Tuesday night, but he made the key saves when he had to make them.
“He has been solid for us since he got here,” Lafleur said.
“He has been a huge difference maker for us, allowing the guys to play a little looser.
“I think our three-goalie system is really pushing all three guys.”
In addition to Kustra, the Lumberjacks have Nicholas Dube and Jonathan Passarelli.
Kustra turned aside 19 of the 21 shots the Rock fired his way to pick up his fifth win of the season.
Masternak blocked 17 of the 21 shots he faced and he was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Griffioen, Kentish-Stack and Reuben … In addition to Parnell and Mathieu, the Rock did not dress goalie Eric Jackson (lower-body injury) Tuesday night. Timmins Majors goalie Jordan Yaremchuk backed up Masternak … The online auction of the game-worn and autographed Timmins Golden Bears jerseys the Rock wore against the Voodoos on Saturday night is continuing and will wrap up at noon on Saturday. Visit timminsrock.com to place a bid … Each team went 1-7 on the power play … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 688 … The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.