HEARST – When it rains, it pours and the Timmins Rock are in the midst of a monsoon the likes of which this planet hasn’t seen since some fellow named Noah took up boat building.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Already missing nine regulars — forward Derek Seguin (fractured jaw), forward Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury), forward Alexandre Brisson (traded to the Huntsville Otters earlier this week) forward Kevin Kutasi (healthy scratch), defencemen Jared Hester (lower-body injury), defenceman James Redmond (gone for season with an upper-body injury), defenceman Eric Paquette (undisclosed), defenceman Connor Losen (away from team dealing with personal issues) and goalie Tyler Masternak (upper-body injury) — from the lineup, the Rock lost two more players during Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Lumberjacks at the Clause Larose Arena in Hearst.
Forward Jace Soroko suffered a neck injury during the contest and forward Tyler Planetta left with a back injury halfway through the game.
That more so than falling three points behind the fourth-place Lumberjacks in the NOJHL’s East Division standings might be of more concern heading into a pair of home games at the McIntyre Arena this weekend.
“You just can’t make this stuff up,” said a frustrated Rock coach Corey Beer.
“For our guys to keep battling through it, hats off to them. I am very impressed with them.
“It is not easy to look at the stat sheets of all the other teams in the league and see that nobody else is going through the kind of injury situation we are currently dealing with. It is pretty crazy.
“We have been forced to ask guys to play in roles they are not normally accustomed to playing and they certainly haven’t backed down from that challenge.
“I am very impressed with the way our group keeps grinding things out. Hopefully when we get guys back healthy, after these guys developing and playing some key minutes, we are going to be a better team down the stretch.”
It is too early to speculate how long Soroko and Planetta might be out of the Rock lineup.
“We are hoping Soroko’s injury isn’t too serious,” Beer said.
“Planetta will have to be monitored because he got hit from behind and he went into the boards awkwardly. We will have to see how it goes.”
The Rock were forced to dress four affiliate players — forwards Austin Holomes (Timmins Majors) and Dryden Rivet (Timmins Majors), as well as defenceman Cooper Roussy (Kapuskasing Flyers) and goalie Jordan Yaremchuk (Timmins Majors) — during Wednesday night’s contest.
Despite the shortage of healthy bodies, the Rock actually got off to a solid start during Wednesday night’s contest and took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room following the opening 20 minutes of play.
C.J. Bradburn beat Lumberjacks starting goalie Jean-Marc Brisson for his fifth goal of the season midway through the opening period.
Then, after Lumberjacks forward Max Griffioen scored his seventh goal of the season to tie things up, Rock captain Wayne Mathieu potted his sixth goal of the season to put the visitors back in front.
“We were pretty structured in the first period and the guys were cycling well on the forecheck,” Beer said.
“Our neutral zone play was pretty tight and we tried to keep them to the outside as much as possible. We had a good pre-scout from our assistant coach, Marc Bisson, with regard to where we wanted to shoot pucks on their starting goalie.”
A 10-minute span in the second period proved to be the Rock’s downfall Wednesday night, as a 2-1 lead was quickly transformed into a 5-2 deficit.
“We had one of those periods in the second where things kind of slipped away from us,” Beer said.
“Our depth is certainly being tested right now. Not having enough able-bodies defencemen back there with just four regulars and some guys being pressed into playing more minutes than they are probably used to playing and having forwards playing defence.
“I thought the young kid Roussy handled himself well back there, but it was a tough task, especially when you are playing against a good forechecking team.
Lumberjacks coach and GM Marc Lafleur opted to make a goaltending change at the start of the second period, with Nicholas Dube coming on in relief of Brisson and it provided the home side with a boost.
Tyler Watungwa scored his first goal of the season at the 3:07 mark of the second period to tie things up at 2-2.
Then, just over two minutes later, Spencer Silver netted his ninth goal of the season to put the Lumberjacks in front by a goal.
Samuel Bourdages added his 10th goal of the season 26 seconds later to make it a 4-2 hockey game and Beer opted to pull starting goalie Eric Jackson, with affiliate player Jordan Yaremchuk coming on in relief.
That move slowed the Lumberjacks’ roll for a short time, but defenceman Colin Boudreau’s unassisted marker, his sixth goal of the season, increased the home side’s advantage to 5-2.
The Rock were able to get one of those goals back before the end of the second period, as A.J. Campbell’s first of the season cut the Rock’s deficit to 5-3.
Jackson returned to the Rock crease to start the third period, but neither team was able to find the back of the net during the game’s final 20 minutes.
Despite the loss, Beer was impressed with the effort put forth by a number of Rock players Wednesday night.
“C.J. Bradburn, for the fifth- or six-straight game, played some tremendous hockey and he was all over the scoresheet,” he said.
“The line of Linden Spencer, Evan Kentish-Stack and Riley Robitaille was tremendous on the forecheck. Evan is playing with such confidence right now and I am so happy for him. He is so deserving because he works hard and he has really been impressive.
“Wayne Mathieu played one of his better games of the year.”
With the current shortage of healthy bodies, Beer can take some comfort from teh fact Rock GM Kevin Peever is scouring the country looking for a little for a few good players.
“Kevin has a couple of irons in the fire and we are certainly looking to bring in some more talent to help our guys, but they have to be the right kind of players for our program,” he said.
“We certainly don’t want stop-gap guys who are not going to be good team guys and develop the right way.
“We are doing our homework to make sure the bodies we bring in are going to be good Timmins Rock players and not just guys to fill out a uniform.”
Dube, who stopped 15 of the 16 shots the Rock fired his way, picked up the victory in relief, while Brisson blocked five of the seven shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
Jackson stopped 24 of the 28 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock, while Yaremchuk made four saves in his 14:21 of action.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars were Lumberjacks forward Bradley Golant (one assist), Dube and Boudreau … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 655 … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Jimmy Cote Photography