HEARST — The Lumberjacks scored early and often en route to a 6-3 victory over the Timmins Rock at the Claude Larose Arena Saturday night.
That loss, combined with the Powassan Voodoos’ 3-1 win over the Crunch in Cochrane, officially ended the Rock’s hopes of finishing atop the NOJHL’s overall standings.
Following the Rock’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Friday night, that fate had seemed all but certain.
The Voodoos (43-8-1-0) have now officially clinched top spot, leaving the Rock (40-11-2-1) in second place in the East Division standings, with a shot at being second overall — depending on how things play out in the West Division.
Rock coach Corey Beer acknowledged his team might have experienced a letdown after such a critical game Friday night.
“It could be, plus Hearst was well rested and they came out guns a blazing,” he said.
“We had a pretty emotional, physical night on Friday on the first half of a back-to-back.”
It took just 31 seconds for the Lumberjacks to get on the scoreboard Saturday night, thanks to Dominic Dumas’ power-play marker, his 20th goal of the season.
“That was a tough way to start the game off,” Beer said.
“We found ourselves having to play catch-up and things didn’t go our way, throughout the entire night.”
Just over three minutes later, Jake Desando added his 20th goal of the campaign to increase the home side’s advantage to a pair of goals.
Just shy of the halfway mark in the opening period, Olivier Cloutier-Faucher notched his 19th goal of the season.
That marker resulted in Rock starting goalie Vance Meyer getting the hook, with affiliate goalie Julien Lefebvre coming on in relief.
Five minutes later, the Rock got on the scoreboard with Zach Smith netting his ninth goal of the season to pull the visitors within a pair of goals.
They had an opportunity to close the gap even further, but captain Derek Seguin was denied on a penalty shot with 19 seconds remaining on the clock.
Meyer returned to the Timmins net for the start of the second period, but he was greeted by Spencer Silver’s 19th goal of the season to put the Lumberjacks in front 4-1.
That proved to be the only goal of the middle frame, and Hearst carried that three-goal advantage into the third period.
Seguin started a Rock rally when he scored his 26th goal of the season at the 5:28 mark of the final frame.
Five-and-a-half minutes later, Phil Caron added his 18th goal of the season to close the gap to 4-3.
That would be as close as the Rock would come to getting back on even terms, however, as Justin Miron struck for his fifth goal of the season to put the Lumberjacks back in front by a pair of goals.
Meyer was injured on the play and had to leave the game, resulting in Lefebvre coming into the contest for the second time.
With just 2:21 remaining on the clock, the Timmins Majors puck stopper surrendered his first NOJHL goal when he was beaten by Lumberjacks forward Sebastien Doucet’s sixth tally of the season.
Despite the loss, the Rock coach was happy to see his squad battle back and make a game of it.
“A couple of our forwards really took charge,” Beer said.
“The line with Derek Seguin, Gabby Kioki and Josh Dickson was just incredible all night long and we got good contributions from the line with Riley Robitaille coming back into the line-up (after serving a six-game suspension), with (Cameron) Kosurko and Smitty.
“Those guys were just flying out there, which was great to see and Ty Gilberds was throwing the body around.
“So, we got those seven guys going and that was really good. It gave us some momentum.
“We also had a guy like Harry Clark (one assist), as an AP (affiliate player) coming up and doing some damage.
“We got it to within one goal, then we made some sloppy plays and things got out of hand again.
“It was just one of those nights, one of those games where you look at it and we are not catching Powassan and Hearst is not catching us.”
Beer was understandably not happy with the way his team lost Meyer to injury Saturday night.
“What ended up happening was one of their players bowled through the crease … a 20 year old running over a 17-year-old kid,” he said.
“It knocked him out of the game and he had to go to the hospital. We waited with him there until 1 a.m. to make sure he was OK.
“It was a very dangerous, reckless play.”
Meyer is officially listed as day-to-day, with an upper-body injury.
“He is doing better now, which is the best news,” Beer said.
“That is a big sigh of relief for us. We won’t have him for the next couple of weeks, but he doesn’t have any serious injuries in terms of broken bones, or whatnot.”
The Rock still have two regular season games remaining before the start of the playoffs and No. 1A puck stopper Tyler Masternak remains out with an upper-body injury of his own.
Unlike the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, the Rock will not be turning to a 42-year-old Zamboni driver as a solution for their goaltending woes.
“We will likely give Masternak the time off to make sure nothing happens to him, either, so we will likely dress two affiliate goalies,”’ Beer said.
“We will have to wait and see who they will be. There are some different things we are looking at and (general manager) Kevin (Peever) is working hard on that right now.”
Lumberjacks goalie Liam Oxner, who turned aside 29 of the 32 shots the Rock directed his way, picked up his 20th win of the season.
Meyer, who blocked 17 of the 22 shots he faced in his two stints in the Rock net, was tagged with the loss.
Lefebvre stopped 10 of the 11 shots fired his way during his two relief appearances.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Silver, Desando and Lumberjacks forward Jordyn Mughal (two assists), while Mondoux, Say and Meyer were honored with The Daily Press awards Friday night … Voodoos forward Gregory Trudeau-Paquette was assessed a gross misconduct at the conclusion of overtime in Saturday night’s contest for making a travesty of the game … The Rock went 0-4 on the power play Saturday night, while the Lumberjacks were 1-5 with the man advantage. Friday night, the Rock went 0-6 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-7 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Friday night was 1,232 … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.