HEARST — An inability to stay out of the penalty box proved costly for the Timmins Rock Wednesday night, as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena.
It was the third game in four nights for the two squads to start their six-game regular-season series, after the Rock posted 2-1 and 4-0 victories at the McIntyre Arena.
Assistant coach James Daschuk, speaking on behalf of coach Corey Beer, who was ejected from the contest in the third period, admitted the Rock lacked discipline in the contest.
“Discipline was definitely an issue tonight,” he said.
“There’s no two ways about it. The time we spent killing penalties killed all the momentum we might have been gaining. We didn’t have momentum often, but as soon as we would get a little sniff of it, it would get killed by a bad penalty.
“It was pretty frustrating to watch at certain points.”
The two sides exchanged power-play goals in the opening 20 minutes, with Jaxon Penner putting the Lumberjacks in front 1-0 at the 5:14 mark, as he notched his fourth of the season, and Captain Derek Seguin finding the back of the net with his first of two on the night and ninth of the campaign with 1:50 remaining on the clock.
Even though the stats showed the Rock outshot the Lumberjacks 11-7 in the opening period and the score was deadlocked after 20 minutes, the visitors had trouble getting to loose pucks first and winning battles for possession.
“Twenty-four hours ago, we skated those guys into the ice,” Daschuk said.
“We were first to every puck and that was obviously a key to our success. Tonight, we won very few puck battles and we certainly weren’t getting to pucks first.
“It just goes to show what kind of difference 24 hours can make. Those guys came to play.”
A pair of goals just over three minutes apart in the second period allowed the Lumberjacks to pull in front 3-1.
Trystan Mughal’s second goal of the season got the puck rolling for the home side, while blue-liner Carson Cox added his second goal of the campaign to put Hearst up by a pair.
The Rock were able to cut into the Lumberjacks’ advantage before the end of the frame, however, courtesy of Tyler Schwindt’s unassisted marker, his fourth goal of the season.
Zachary Demers’ power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season, restored the Lumberjacks’ two-goal advantage at the 5:51 mark of the third period.
Trailing 4-2, the Rock got a power-play opportunity when Penner was sent off for interference with just 1:09 remaining in the contest.
Daschuk opted to pull goalie Tyler Masternak to create a two-man advantage and Seguin scored his second goal of the night and 10th of the season nine seconds later.
Any hopes the Rock had of completing the comeback were dashed 22 seconds later, however, when Riley Robitaille was sent off for high sticking.
Daschuk acknowledged the Lumberjacks were able to make better use of their speed on the larger ice surface at the Claude Larose Arena.
“We talked about the size of the rink before the game,” he said.
“You could see they felt more comfortable playing in their home barn tonight, particularly with the style of play they employ. The bigger ice surface fits right into their style.
“Whether we were not use to it, or just slow to begin with, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, a little from Column A, a little from Column B.”
As undisciplined as the Rock were and even with the other shortcomings of their game Wednesday night, they were still just a shot away from sending the game to a shootout.
“I guess there is a little bit of solace in that, knowing it certainly wasn’t our best game, but whether you lose by one or lose by 10, it’s still a loss,” Daschuk said.
“The game was never really out of reach. We believed we could definitely come back and tie that game. The way it was going though, it just seemed like it was going to be one of those nights.”
Unlike the first two games of the series, the Rock were forced to try and play catch-up hockey all night long.
“We would score to bring it to within one and they would get the next one,” Daschuk said.
“We were chasing the game all night. Obviously, that is tough on morale and you feel like you will never get there.
“We have a resilient group of guys though and I always thought there was a bit of hope.”
The Rock assistant coach was once again impressed by Seguin’s all-around game.
“He is our best player because he works the hardest,” Daschuk said.
“There is no question about that. Whether he has the ‘C’ on his jersey or not you are getting one thing with that guy, hard work.
“It is absolutely amazing to watch him sometimes. Whatever the situation, on the power play or even on the penalty kill, down low, working against three or four guys, he never quits.
“He is definitely a role model for our younger players. He is the kind of guy you want to model your game after.”
Few other Rock players showed the consistent effort needed to garner a little extra praise from their assistant coach Wednesday night.
“There were spurts, but nobody really … I think consistency was our problem,” Daschuk said.
“Guys were okay here and there. Surkie (Cameron Kosurko) has been pretty good pretty much all season.
“Dickson is Dickson and he was okay, too. I like how Pige (Nicolas Pigeon) plays the game, kind of a rugged style.
“Freddie (Felix Cadieux-Fredette) on the back end, keeping it simple and stuff, not getting himself in too much trouble, those are all guys who are doing small things and working hard.
“That is kind of what we are teaching.”
Liam Oxner, who turned aside 25 of the 28 shots the Rock directed his way, picked up his third win of the season for the Lumberjacks.
Masternak, who blocked 26 of the 30 shots he faced, was tagged with his first loss of the season in six decisions.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Demers, Seguin and Cox … The Rock went 2-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 2-9 with the man advantage … The Rock did not dress blue-liner Brendan Boyce (undisclosed) … The fourth game in the series will be played at the Claude Larose Arena on Friday, at 8 p.m.
Game Photos: Marc-André Longval