Tyler Masternak stopped all 12 shots he faced to post his NOJHL-record eighth shutout of the season as the Timmins Rock blanked the Cochrane Crunch 5-0 at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.
In addition, with the whitewash Masternak increased his NOJHL-best career shutout total to 16.
Just as importantly, the victory extended the Rock’s lead over the Voodoos atop the NOJHL’s overall standings to three points — although Powassan has three games in hand.
The Voodoos (38-8-1-0), who will host the Rock (39-9-1-1) at the Powassan Sportsplex Friday night, used one of those games in hand Wednesday night but details from that contest were not available at press time.
Rock coach Corey Beer was pleased with all aspects of his team’s game in Tuesday night’s contest.
“I really liked our puck management overall tonight,” he said.
“The first five minutes of the game, I don’t think there was a shot either way, but we had the puck the entire time. We had them stagnate in their D Zone. They didn’t have any clean exits.
“We were really good down low and you just saw as the game wore on that our net cycle grew and grew.
“Soft chips to areas, speed entries when we had them, it was a great hockey game again.”
The Rock jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first nine minutes of Tuesday night’s contest.
Blue-liner Evan Beaudry got the puck moving for the home side when he scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal at the 4:40 mark of the opening period.
It was the fourth tally of the season for the 18-year-old Mississauga native.
Just over four minutes later, Gabinien Kioki found the back of the net with a power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season and fourth in a Rock uniform to send the home side into the first intermission with a two-goal advantage.
Following a scoreless middle frame, the Rock pulled away from the Crunch by scoring three unanswered goals in the third period.
Tyler Schwindt netted his 14th goal of the season at the 9:07 mark to increase the Rock lead to 3-0.
Just over two minutes later, blue-liner Josh Anderson blasted a slap shot past Crunch goalie Zach Wickson for a power-play maker, his 11th goal of the campaign, to increase the Rock advantage to four goals.
Then, 16-year-old rookie Cameron Kosurko stole the puck in the Crunch end and stuffed the puck past Wickson for his 11th goal of the season to make the final score 5-0 in favour of the home side.
Every aspect of the Rock game appeared to be clicking on all cylinders Tuesday night.
“The job Masty (Masternak) does in our net is incredible,” Beer said.
“He and Vance (Meyer) are so good for us and I am so happy to see the records Masty has been breaking.
“He is such an incredible person and a huge part of our team. He is the backbone of our team. This is another accolade for him and it is incredible.
“Our defencemen, their puck movement was so sharp. When we didn’t have it, our reloads and coming back with speed was fantastic.
“And our forwards buying into … and I am going to steal a quote here from John Cooper (coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning), they talked about what happened to them in the playoffs last year against Columbus. They called it ‘offensive arrogance.’
“They thought if they were up 3-0, they had to win the game 7-0. For our guys, when it was 3-0, we said let’s play the right way. If we get two more goals, so be it.
“The shots in the third period were 13-2 in our favour and I think both of the shots we gave up were from outside the dots.
“They were not good chances and for us, that is lock-down hockey, as good as it gets.”
After a slow start, following the trade that brought him home to Timmins from the CCHL’s Rockland Nationals, Kioki has now scored goals in four of his past five games.
“He is a really good player in terms of his two-way ability, with good offensive creativity and he has been really hot lately, with a great shot,” Beer said.
“He also brings a element of nastiness out there and it’s not that we don’t have it everywhere, but he is just a guy who is so passionate about playing the game.
“He has been playing the game the right way and he has bought into everything. He is out there competing for loose pucks. He is finishing his checks late in shifts and then getting off on line changes.
“It is the small details with him that I am really impressed with out there right now.”
Even though he did not find the back of the net Tuesday night, Tyler Gilberds picked up a pair of assists in the contest.
“He has been incredible,” Beer said.
“In addition to his play on the ice, he has taken on a leadership role for us. He might not wear a letter, but he is vocal on the bench and vocal in the room, doing things the right way.
“There is no question about the direction his game is trending right now, it is on the up and up.
“His big-body presence out there has been great. If we are going to play a skill game, we are going to need to get the puck and if he can get in there, assert that physical presence and get that puck, he has enough speed and he has enough skill and creativity to make plays once he gets it.
“It is not easy to get it back off of him, either. He, Stewie (Stewart Parnell), Gabby (Kioki), Segs (captain Derek Seguin), these guys are big bodies and they can really do damage down low.
“Gibby is playing the best hockey I have ever seen him play and I am really happy for him.”
The coach was also pleased to see Beaudry deliver such an important goal in Tuesday night’s contest.
“Make no mistake about it, our defencemen are very active,” Beer said.
“They are up on the rush and they are fast on the breakout and they have got tons of movement in the offensive zone.
“I can’t think of a better spot for an offensive defenceman to play than here in Timmins.
“Those two guys (Anderson and Beaudry) typify that. Look at the opportunities they are getting to jump into the rush and make plays, then both of them getting good shots.
“Both of their goals were low glove, low blocker, one through a screen and the other on a power play.
“Our defence group has been outstanding all year.”
Crunch assistant coach Tanner Bowditch agreed his goalie was solid, despite giving up five goals, but he did not see too much else that he liked Tuesday night.
“As bad as 5-0 looked tonight, if we had anybody other than Wickson in net it probably would have looked a lot worse,” he said.
“He is the only guy we can actually rely on to show up almost every game. He had another great game tonight and unfortunately the guys in front of him couldn’t get anything done.
“It is really tough for him, because he really battles every game. He shows up to work with his work boots on, but he is not surrounded by like-minded individuals.”
With a record of 22-22-3-2, the Crunch sit in fourth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings, with little chance of catching the Hearst Lumberjacks (28-16-3-2), or being caught by the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (13-30-5-1).
“The frustrating part is we see flashes of stuff,” Bowditch said.
“We have a good shift here or there, but all in all sometimes we don’t look like we belong in the same league as these guys.
“We have games like we did against Powassan on Saturday (a 3-2 victory), where we put up 30 or 35 shots against the best team in the league and then we come out there tonight and look like we were a Midget hockey team.
“There is a huge lack of consistency for us. When we work, we can play with the best of them.
“For some reason, though, we don’t show up in Timmins.”
The assistant coach doesn’t really feel his squad’s age or lack of experience is an excuse.
“It is something we have been talking about all year, but at the end of the day, you have got to win,” Bowditch said.
“You have got to find a way to do it. We have a really good group of talented guys here and when they show up, they are great. When they don’t, they are not.”
In addition to picking up his eighth shutout of the season, Masternak’s 12-save performance earned him his 24th win of the campaign.
Wickson, who turned aside 28 of the 33 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Kioki, Beaudry and Gilberds … The Rock did not dress forwards Riley Robitaille (serving the third game of a six-game suspension), David Laroche (upper-body injury) and blue-liner Quinn Schneidmiller (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 2-4 on the power play, while the Crunch were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 849 … In addition to taking on the Voodoos in Powassan Friday night, the Rock will also visit the Rapids in French River Saturday night as part of their two-game road trip. The next home game for the Rock will be on Friday, Feb. 21, when they host the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.