THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Timmins Rock forward A.J. Campbell battles to gain control of a loose puck in his feet in front of Hearst goalie Nicholas Tallarico and Lumberjacks defender J.J. Berdal looks on during the first period of Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The Lumberjacks edged the Rock 3-2 for their fifth-straight victory.
Justin Miron’s shorthanded goal late in the third period lifted the Hearst Lumberjacks to a 3-2 win over the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.
The Lumberjacks’ fifth-straight victory lifted them into sole possession of third place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — two points ahead of the fourth-place Rock (23-15-3-0).
Despite the one-goal loss to a division rival, the Rock turned in a solid effort even though captain Derek Seguin — who ranks second in the NOJHL in goals with 25 and sixth in points with 49 — was three provinces away suiting up with Team East at the 2019 CJHL Prospects Game Tuesday night.
Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson agreed giving up a shorthanded goal late in the third period was a tough way to loss a hockey game.
“That’s for sure,” he said.
“They are playing really well right now and they are arguably one of the hottest teams in the league right now. They came in here and they took two points from us in a tight game. It is very disappointing.
“On the shorthanded goal, our shot from the point didn’t get through. The puck hit a shin pad. Their D (Miron) did an amazing job of reading that and jumping into the play.
“He scored that shorthanded goal because he anticipated what was going to happen on the play.”
It was the Lumberjacks who got on the scoreboard first Tuesday night, as Jake Desando’s team-leading 23rd goal of the season staked Hearst to a 1-0 lead at the 13:37 mark of the opening period.
The Rock got back on even terms at the 1:26 mark of the middle frame when blue-liner Josh Anderson took a cross-ice pass from Gage Tremblay and deposited his eighth goal of the season in the Lumberjacks’ net behind goalie Nicholas Tallarico.
Just shy of the midway point in the second period Tremblay gave the Rock a 2-1 lead when he netted a power-play marker, his eighth goal of the season, with Lumberjacks star blue-liner Alec Johnson off serving a double-minor penalty for high sticking.
It appeared the Rock would carry that one-goal advantage into the second intermission, but Lumberjacks sniper Max Griffioen beat Timmins goalie Tyler Masternak for his 20th goal of the season with five seconds remaining in the frame.
Both teams had numerous opportunities to break the tie in the third period and the Rock were presented with a five-on-three man advantage with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
The Lumberjacks were able to fill off the first portion of that opportunity, however, and with the Rock still enjoying a five-on-four advantage, Miron jumped into the rush and deposited his second tally of the season into the
Rock cage for the game-winning goal with just 3:44 remaining on the clock.
The Rock pulled Masternak in favour of an extra attacker in the game’s dying minutes, but they were unable to net the equalizer despite having a number of quality chances.
Bisson said the coaching staff had a simple message for the Rock players heading into a pivotal battle against an East Division foe.
“We were preaching to them that we wanted them to compete,” he said.
“They are a tough team, an older, veteran team and we just needed to play a tougher game against them. Unfortunately, we did not come out on the right side of the score tonight.”
Bisson acknowledged the absence of Seguin left a big hole in the Rock lineup Tuesday night.
“We knew it was going to be tough without him,” he said.
“On that five-on-three in the third period, we do have some plays that normally would have gone through Segs and we definitely missed him out there.
“We tried to put some other guys in that place during the five-on-three, but how can you replace a guy who has 25 goals on the season.
“You just can’t. I thought Gage Tremblay was really good and he played a great game tonight, but when you are missing your captain, your leader, it makes it tough.”
Bisson, who coaches the Rock goaltenders, was impressed with the play of Masternak Tuesday night.
“He made a few incredible saves in the first period that really kept us in the game,” he said.
“The second goal, with five seconds left in the period, was a shot he definitely wanted back, but it doesn’t work like that.”
The assistant coach did acknowledge the team had plenty of bodies back in the defensive zone on the play and he agreed perhaps the Griffioen should not have been allowed to get off a shot on the play.
“It’s not all on him,” Bisson said.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team. If we could have gotten out of that second period with a 2-1 lead as opposed to being tied 2-2 … I thought that was a bit deflating.
“It is tough. You grind through a whole period and you play well and you get two goals up on the board and then you give up that late goal.
“We told our guys in the second intermission to give us their best 20 minutes in the third period and I thought we played OK. There were a couple of miscues, but one bounce here or one bounce there and we could have won the game 3-2.”
The assistant coach was also impressed with the play of one of the Rock’s two 16-year-old defencemen.
“Carson Burlington was pretty steady on the back end,” Bisson said.
“Josh Dickson had a good game for us tonight, as well, filling in up front and getting some extra ice time with Segs not here.”
As one might expect, Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was pleased to see his team pick up two points on the road Tuesday night.
“They really took it to us the first five minutes of the game,” he said.
“Hopefully we can rectify the pattern you saw here (slow starts by the Lumberjacks) in all three periods by Friday.
“We got lucky with a couple of bounces here and there. Both goalies made some big saves. Masternak made a few key saves, I thought, in the first period when we were on the PP (power play).
“Tallarico was pretty hot for us when he needed to be, as well.
“It was just one of those games where I thought both teams were very evenly matched. It was just a matter of one or two key moments a game and we were just lucky to come out on top tonight.”
Lafleur agreed one of those key moments Tuesday night was the Lumberjacks ability to weather the Rock’s five-on-three opportunity late in the third period and then score a shorthanded goal soon afterwards.
“When we went down five-on-three, I was thinking if we had the luxury of being able to kill off that situation and go back to five-on-five, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” he said.
“One of our D-men jumped into the play and scored the goal for us on the play.
“We are moving up in the standings, but at the same time, we also know the East Division is jam packed right now.”
Indeed, only 11 points separate the first-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and the fifth-place Powassan Voodoos in the East Division following Tuesday night’s action.
“Another key moment tonight was when they scored the power-play goal early on after the double-minor,” Lafleur said.
“We were able to kill off the second penalty and after the second period I can remember saying to myself if we come back and win this game that is going to be one of the key moments.
“Yes, they scored one goal, but we stayed focused, regrouped and were able to gain some momentum off the penalty kill.”
There was no shortage of Lumberjacks who impressed with coach with strong efforts Tuesday night.
“Max Johnson, since we put him on the wing, has been very steady up front,” Lafleur said.
“Guys like Daniel Fisher have been really good for us of late. Somebody else who does not get a lot of accolades is Christian James-McDonald, who does everything for us. He kills penalties, he gets in there on the PP if something happens and is effective. Five-on-five, he is very versatile. He can play the wing and centre.
“Shaun Simpson got a lot more ice time tonight and ever since we picked up Troy Daniels from Kirkland Lake, he has been steady Eddie for us.
“It is those type of guys, I think, who are a big reason why we have been pretty good the last 10 or 11 games.
Tallarico, who turned aside 29 of the 31 shots the Rock directed his way, picked up his 16th win in a Lumberjacks uniform.
Masternak, who stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Miron, Tremblay and Desando … The Rock did not dress forward Mahingan Decontie (undisclosed) and Seguin … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 0-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 650 … The auction of the Timmins Northstars jerseys the Rock wore during the Jan. 17 game against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners is continuing on the Rock website. Seguin’s No. 91 jersey has generated the most bids to date and is currently sitting at $370. Bidding is scheduled to end on Friday, at 6 p.m. … Tuesday’s only other contest saw the Thunderbirds edge the Elliot Lake Wildcats 5-4 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. Their next home game will be on Sunday when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.