Tyler Masternak stopped all 27 shots he faced en route to recording his NOJHL-leading fifth shutout of the season as the Timmins Rock blanked the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-0 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
The victory gave the Rock a sweep of their home-and-home series with their East Division rivals following Friday night’s 5-2 triumph at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake.
Masternak — who lowered his goals against average to 1.88, second only to teammate Vance Meyer’s 1.50 mark — now has an NOJHL career-best 13 shutouts.
“It is definitely a team thing, it is not really a competition between us,” he said.
“We are just there to support each other every night. Everyone has to buy in and do the right things for us to get shutouts. Everyone knows the systems and they know what they have to do out there on the ice.
“We all trust each other to do their job.”
The Rock are the top defensive team in the NOJHL to this point in the season, having allowed just 59 goals in 33 games — 25 fewer than the next best squad (the Powassan Voodoos).
“We have got some good defencemen and some good defensive forwards, too,” Masternak said.
“Obviously, our work is not done, though. There is always room for improvement and that’s what we are going to be striving for in the new year.”
Tyler Gilbred’s 11th tally of the season, netted midway through the opening period, proved to be the game-winner for the Rock (25-5-1-1), who enter the NOJHL’s Christmas break with the fewest regulation losses in the league.
Now in second place in the East Division standings, the Rock trail the Voodoos (28-6-0-0) by two points, but they have a game in hand.
Saturday night’s victory allowed the Rock to vault past the Hearst Lumberjacks (26-11-0-1) and they have played five fewer games entering the break.
Three second-period goals allowed the Rock to increase their advantage to 4-0.
Josh Dickson netted the first of those tallies just shy of the nine-minute mark, when he potted his 16th goal of the season.
Then, just under three minutes later, rookie Cameron Kosurko added his seventh goal of the campaign.
With less than three-and-a-half minutes remaining in the frame, Dickson struck for his second goal of the night and 17th of the season with the Rock on the power play.
The third period was scoreless, but a steady parade of players to the penalty box kept the time keeper busy for the game’s final 20 minutes.
An incident at the 13:24 mark saw minor penalties for roughing and misconducts handed out to Kirkland Lake’s Max Newnam and Nick Wagner, as well as the Rock’s Josh Anderson and Karter Renouf, with the later drawing an additional minor penalty for roughing.
Then, with just over three-and-a-half minutes remaining on the clock, Kirkland Lake’s Zachary Frescura was handed his second misconduct penalty of the contest. Frescura and teammate Casey Gerstein had received misconduct penalties prior to the start of play for warm-up violations.
Rock coach Corey Beer — recently returned from helping Canada East win silver medals at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C. — was pleased to see his squad sweep the Gold Miners.
“I would be lying if I said the first 10 or 20 minutes Friday night wasn’t a little bit different style of game,” he said.
“We were a little bit sloppy, but then we cleaned things up in the back 40 minutes.
“It was great hockey and tonight, again, we were really good. Our buy in overall, so far, to this point, closing out 2019, has been great.
“Top to bottom, we are getting contributions from every line, all our defencemen and both goaltenders. It is pretty special right now.”
The Rock coach was impressed not only with Masternak’s play in net, but also his offensive contributions, as he picked up an assist on Dickson’s first goal.
“He is one of the better puck-playing goalies in our league, for sure,” Beer said.
“He has good confidence in his ability to do that and we encourage him to do it, too. For him to get that reward, for goalies that means a lot. The ultimate goal would be an empty-net goal, but for them to get on the scoresheet with an assist lets them know they can make plays just like our defencemen.”
The Rock coach was once again impressed with the combination of Dickson and captain Derek Seguin, who has not missed a beat despite dealing with the death of his brother earlier this month.
“Josh is definitely a guy who is not short on confidence, that’s for sure,” Beer said.
“He is always talking in the room and he is one of the smartest players I have ever coached, in terms of understanding the system and knowing where to be out there.
“Now, his skill has matched that kind of smarts. He plays in all situations. He plays power play, penalty kill and late in games up one or down one, four-on-four hockey. You name it and he does it for us.
“And Derek is one of the most incredible people I have ever met in my life. Since I have been here, he and I have been tied at the hip on this little journey we are on.
“Derek Seguin is not someone you just coach. He is someone I am going to be friends with for the rest of my life.
“He is an incredible person and his leadership in the room, on the ice, in the community, wherever he is, you can’t ask for a better person.”
Saturday night, there was no shortage of other Rock players who impressed their coach.
“I really liked Ty Gilbreds’ game,” Beer said.
“It was a bounce back game for him. He was okay the other night. He, Linden Spencer and Zach Smith kind of shuffled in and out of our third and fourth lines and then they got their games going.
“Gibby got the goal and from a team standpoint, they did some of the small things that contributed to us having a good forecheck and good zone pressure. They were really good.
“The Kosurko, (Riley) Robitaille, (Riley) Brousseau line we just put together showed some real good flashes.
“You could go right up and down the lineup tonight. We got good contributions from our entire roster.”
Gold Miners coach and general manager Kyle Smart knows his squad has a lot of work ahead of it, but he was impressed with some of the progress it displayed Saturday night.
“Work ethic is definitely one of our priorities,” he said.
“Things like paying the price, getting in shot-block lanes, getting our pins in place and being a little more aggressive in the D zone and we need to work on our speed in the neutral zone and creating opportunities in the offensive zone.
“I think we competed hard against Timmins in the first period Friday night, as well as tonight.
“Corey called a time out at about the 15-minute mark and it was a good call on his behalf. We knew it was coming and we went back out there hoping to keep the same pace going, but they came out a little stronger after that.
“We competed hard for the first 25 minutes or so tonight, but then we lost focus. We got it back again in the third, but it was a bit late to try and battle back.
“It is an up-hill battle, but we are gelling as a team and coming together a bit better than some of the feedback I had been getting.”
The coach and general manager is not sure how long it will take to get things totally turned around, but he is pleased with the progress he has seen so far.
“They are getting things a lot quicker than I thought they would,” he said.
“We have played five or six games and we were really strong against the Soo (Eagles). We played hard against Elliot Lake and got the points and we battled some other good teams well. We got ahead on Cochrane and we got ahead on French River.
“We are just trying to instill there are 60 minutes in a hockey game.”
In addition to recording his fifth shutout of the season, Masternak earned his 15th win of the campaign.
Gold Miners goalie Kyle McNair, who turned aside 30 of the 34 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
ROCK 5 GOLD MINERS 2
Friday night in Kirkland Lake, Phil Caron scored a pair of goals to power the Rock to their third win in three games at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex this season.
Caron’s seventh goal of the season and Anderson’s eighth of the campaign allowed the Rock to jump out to a 2-0 lead before the game was eight minutes old.
The Gold Miners — who had failed to score a goal against the Rock during the first two games on their home ice — were able to battle back and deadlock the contest at 2-2, however.
Cameron Neaylon netted his sixth goal of the season and 23 seconds later Gerstein added his fourth goal of the campaign.
The Rock regained the lead prior to the end of the opening period when Caron potted his second goal of the night and eighth of the season while his team was on the power play.
Following a scoreless second period, the Rock put the game on ice with a pair of goals in the final frame.
Blue-liner Brendan Boyce netted the first of those markers when he scored his third goal of the season and Tyler Schwindt closed out the scoring when he added a power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season, just past the midway mark of the period.
Meyer, who blocked 17 of the 19 shots he faced, picked up his 11th win of the season, while Gold Miners goalie Kohl Reddy, who turned aside 43 of the 48 shots directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of Saturday night’s contest were Masternak, Dickson and Seguin (three assists), while Caron, Reddy and Dickson were honoured Friday night … The Rock were without the services of forwards Jonah Devereux (upper-body injury) and David Laroche (upper-body injury), as well as blue-liner Quinn Schneidmiller (upper-body injury) in the two weekend games … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play Saturday night, while the Gold Miners were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 982 … The Rock will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 4, when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., for a game with the Eagles. Their next home game will be on Thursday, Jan. 9, when they entertain the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena.