Kirkland Lake Gold Miners forward Declan Carter’s shot sails past the facemask of Timmins Rock goalie Tyler Masternak during the second period of Wednesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Masternak made 43 saves to help backstop the Rock to a 1-1 double-overtime tie with the Gold Miners. The single point the Rock picked up allowed them to move into a fourth-place tie in the East Division standings with the Lumberjacks, although Hearst has four games in hand. The two teams will meet Friday night at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Tyler Masternak returned from the injury list to make 43 saves and backstop the Timmins Rock to a 1-1 double overtime tie with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena.
With No. 1 goalie Eric Jackson unable to dress because of the lower-body injury he suffered during Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the visiting Powassan Voodoos, Masternak played his best game in a Rock uniform.
He was especially sharp in the second and third periods when the Rock were outshot 16-4 and 15-8.
“Tyler was great, especially coming back off an injury,” said Rock assistant coach James Daschuk, who ran the team along with fellow assistant Marc Bisson Wednesday night while coach Corey Beer served the first game of his three-game suspension for getting toss out of Sunday’s loss to the Voodoos.
“It is the first game I have been able to see him play. I missed the other two games he played for us.
“It was a pretty phenomenal outing from him. It was his first start on home ice and he stepped up and played a really good game.
“He made a lot of saves against a great offensive team, featuring the leading scorer in the league (Gregory Trudeau-Paquet).
“It looks like he is really settling in.”
Jackson is currently listed as day-to-day, but with Masternak playing so well he won’t have to rush back to the crease before he is ready.
The Rock also got 20-year-old defenceman Jared Hester back from a lower-body injury Wednesday night. It was his first game action since being injured during a game against the Beavers in Blind River on Oct. 29.
“I consider Jared to be among the top five or six defencemen in the league,” Daschuk said.
“Any time you can get a player of his calibre back into your lineup it’s great. With his skills, he almost put a couple of goals in tonight during the overtime. The offensive creativity he brings to the ice is fantastic.
“We are extremely happy to have him back and he looked great out there tonight. He played a lot of minutes, but probably not as many as he would on any given normal night, but he still played more than 20 minutes of us.”
Even with the return of Masternak and Hester, the Rock were still without the services of Jackson, forwards Derek Seguin (fractured jaw), Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury) and Jace Soroko (serving the first game of a three-game suspension picked up during Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the Voodoos), as well as blue-liners James Redmond (upper-body injury) and Eric Paquette (lower-body injury).
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead Wednesday night when affiliate player Kobe Barrette, who normally plays for the GNML’s Timmins Majors, scored the first goal of his NOJHL career at the 6:59 mark of the opening period.
Barrette, who was playing in his first NOJHL game, joins a large group of Majors who have found success in a Rock uniform this season.
“It’s almost like we just expect it now,” Daschuk said.
“Those guys are really fitting in well. They practise with us every day almost, so they kind of know our system. They know what we like to throw at other teams. They know how we like to defend against other teams. They sit through our video sessions.
“They are basically part of our team. We don’t even think of them as affiliates any more. They play with us so often, they have their own numbers.
“Kudos to them, they are some pretty good hockey players.”
In addition to Barrette, the Rock dressed forwards Dryden Rivet and Riley Brousseau, as well as back-up goalie Jordan Yaremchuk from the Majors Wednesday night.
“Rivet stepped out of the penalty box (after serving a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty) and almost scored the winner for us with just over one second left,” Daschuk said.
“The end of the last game, nobody really talked about it with everything that was going on, but that kid blocked two shots for us. He took it off the ankle on the first one and could hardly stand up and he still dropped to block the second one.
“That’s the kind of stuff you see on the plays of the week on TV.”
Indeed. Don Cherry would have been proud.
“These guys (affiliate players) are helping us get through some tough times right now,” Daschuk said.
“We appreciate what they are doing tremendously. You really have to give credit to the Majors’ coaching staff for allowing us to have access to these guys. We are very grateful.”
Barrette’s goal held up until the Gold Miners were able to tie things up six minutes into the second period.
With Rock blue-liner Grant McClellan in the penalty box for high sticking, Trudeau-Paquet scored a power-play marker, his 22nd goal of the season.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net during the third period, the four-on-four first overtime period, or the second three-on-three overtime session.
“It was just kind of a scrappy game on the part of both teams,” he said.
“I don’t think it was pretty hockey by any means, but I guess it was entertaining. There were a couple of chances back and forth, especially when we were playing three on three.
“It was not our best game, but there was a lot of hard work.”
Daschuk was pleased with the effort put forth by a number of Rock players Wednesday night.
“Our captain, Wayne Mathieu, was phenomenal again tonight,” he said.
“He played 31 minutes tonight and for a forward that’s a lot. You don’t see those kind of numbers very often. He played a ton of minutes and I thought he was fantastic.
“It seem if Josh Anderson, on the back end, plays under 30 minutes it’s weird and he played 33 minutes tonight. He is just a beast.
“Jordan Picard was great again tonight. His abilities with the puck are phenomenal. He had a couple of chances in overtime. If he could have got one little bounce, it might have changed the game.
“Even (Frank) Zhong, who is still learning the system, is coming along nicely.”
Gold Miners coach Ryan Wood was much happier with Wednesday night’s 1-1 double-overtime tie than he had been with his squad’s 5-1 loss to the Rock Saturday night.
“It was like night and day,” he said.
“We worked harder. We didn’t play as passive. We were harder on pucks and we generated a lot more offence tonight but we ran into a really hot goalie. Masternak played really well for Timmins and made some amazing saves.”
The Gold Miners didn’t necessarily change their game plan Wednesday night, but they certainly executed it much more efficiently.
“We had two really good, hard days of practice leading up to his game,” Wood said.
“We adjusted our forecheck and some neutral zone stuff. We just tinkered a little bit to make things a little simpler for some of our guys. The guys seemed to figure it out and because of that it worked a little bit.”
The coach felt the effort put forth by a number of Gold Miners was deserving of a little more praise.
“I thought Vito Sica played an amazing game,” Wood said.
“He was blocking shots, got pucks into the offensive zone and was hard on the forecheck all night.
“Declan Carter had multiple scoring chances and I thought Lucas Lyszyk was very strong in the face-off circle for us. He won some key draws in the defensive zone.
“I thought all of our D-men stepped up. That had been a very key focal point of the last two days. We had gone over some footage with our D.
“I thought they did a better job of moving the puck quicker and jumping up in the rush, making themselves more involved. I thought their compete level was much higher.”
The Gold Miners lineup was bolstered Wednesday night by the addition of forward Josh Maine, picked up from the Chatham Maoons, of the GOJHL.
“For a guy who didn’t get a chance to practise with us, just flew in today, we really thought Josh contributed,” Wood said.
“The bar for him is going to continue to get higher and higher each day. He is a 2000-birth-year player and he played in a pretty good ‘AAA’ league down in the U.S. last year, plus he has junior experience after playing in Chatham.
“He is going to be a good fit for us and once we figure out the right pieces to play with him, I think he will help us.
“He was intense tonight. There was a battled down low and our guy got a bit of a head shot and he was right in there to mix it up and protect his teammate. It is a good way to let some boys you don’t really know that you are here to protect them.”
With the single point they were able to pick up during Wednesday night’s 1-1 double overtime tie, the Rock (10-15-1-2) were able to move into a fourth-place tie with the Hearst Lumberjacks (11-12-1-0) in the NOJHL’s East Division standings. Hearst, however, has four games in hand.
The Gold Miners (12-12-3-1), meanwhile, remain six points ahead of the Rock and Lumberjacks in third place.
Masternak turned aside 43 of the 44 shots he faced on the night to earn the tie, while Gold Miners goalie Ryan Winter — who had been given the hook after allowing four goals during Saturday night’s 5-1 loss to the Rock at the McIntyre Arena — stopped 23 of the 24 shots Timmins fired his way Wednesday night.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Masternak, Trudeau-Paquet and Barrette … The Rock have traded forward Connor Hoffmann (20, 2-2-4, 6) and Kevin Kutasi (12, 0-1-1, 6) to the Grand Prairie JDA Kings, of the NWJHL … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-7 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 620 … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they travel to Hearst for a meeting with the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena. The next home game for the Rock will be on Saturday night when they host the Soo Eagles at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)