The first of eight meetings between the Timmins Rock and the Hearst Lumberjacks this season had it all on Wednesday night — big hits, big saves, plenty of scrums, a highlight reel goal, and a pair of ejections.
When all was said and done, the visiting Lumberjacks (4-1-0) went home with a 4-2 victory, handing the Rock (4-1-1) their first loss in regulation this season.
Dominic Dumas gave Hearst the lead just over seven minutes into the game with his third of the season, which would be the only scoring of the period. Rock centreman Stewart Parnell was ejected from the game at the 14:27 mark of the first, after a hit on Lumberjacks defenceman Justin Miron. Parnell was served a five-minute major for boarding, and a suspension is likely coming. Miron was injured on the play, and did not return to action.
Just over five minutes into the second period, Rock blueliner Owen Shier tied the game with a big blast from the point, his second of the season. Four minutes later, Josh Dickson picked up the puck at centre ice and swooped around a pair of Lumberjacks and finished the play off with a top corner snipe over the glove of Lumberjacks goaltender Rahul Bola to give Timmins a 2-1 lead. Dickson followed up the goal with a highly exuberant celebration firing up the crowd, and likely, the Lumberjacks.
Momentum shifted again midway through the second period, when Rock call-up Landon Deforge was assessed a four-minute high-sticking penalty when he bloodied Lumberjacks star Jake Desando at 11:34. Desando left the game for repairs, but later returned.
Hearst made the Rock pay, as both David Gobeil and Olivier Cloutier-Faucher scored their first goals of the season during the power play.
In the final seconds of the period, Lumberjacks defenceman Mathew Eardley was ejected from the game for a kneeing major against Rock winger Rhys Chiddenton. Chiddenton, a Soo Greyhounds prospect, was shaken up on the play, but returned to the game after the intermission. Eardley is likely to hear from league officials as well.
The Rock were unable to capitalize on the five-minute power play to start the third period, despite a shot off the crossbar from captain Derek Seguin, and the advantage was wiped out by an interference minor to defenceman Josh Anderson at the 2:28 mark.
Desando, who scored 30 times last season, got the monkey off his back with his first goal of the season at 7:24 of the third, sneaking one through the pads of Rock goaltender Tyler Masternak.
Despite a few more power-play opportunities throughout the period, the Rock weren’t able to get any closer, and finished 0 for 6 with the man advantage. Hearst finished 2 for 5.
Timmins outshot the Lumberjacks 27-20 overall. Dumas was named first star, with a goal and two assists.
After the game, the Rock knew what some of the issues were in the loss.
“Our emotion level, a lot of penalties cost us,” said forward Riley Robitaille. “We would get the momentum back on our side, and then a bad penalty would take it away, and give it right back to them. We’ll have to learn how to keep momentum on our side, and make sure we stay out of the box.”
Defenceman Eric Moreau said, “They had some pretty clean looks on some of their goals, so we’ve just got to make sure our man-to-man coverage is tight, and that we’re engaged.”
Defenceman Owen Shier added, “I don’t think the score represented how we played. We played better than a loss, but that’s the way the game goes.
“We’ll get to know their systems, and what they do, so we’ll be able to take them down, I know it. We have before,” added Shier, noting the teams meet again seven more times in the regular season, including Round 2 on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Timmins.
The Rock were without head coach Corey Beer for Wednesday’s game. He was away for personal reasons. Forward Zach Smith served the final game of his four-game suspension, and is eligible to return to the lineup this weekend. Forward Linden Spencer has two games left on his six-game suspension, and will be finally able to return for the next matchup against Hearst. Forward Gage Tremblay, as well as defencemen Alec Brown and Tarci Tibishkogihig were out of the lineup with various injuries. Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday night was 635 — the lowest of the season.
The Rock are back in action on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Espanola Express, as well as on Sunday at 2 p.m. versus the defending West Division champions, the Soo Thunderbirds.