McCarthy backstops Rock to 4-0 win

Gavin McCarthy’s teammates offer him congratulations after he backstopped the Timmins Rock to a 4-0 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night. McCarthy stopped all 27 shots he faced to earn his first NOJHL shutout. The Rock will travel to Hearst for a game against the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena Wednesday night. ANDREW AUTIO/LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE

Gavin McCarthy stopped all 27 shots he faced to record his first NOJHL shutout as the Timmins Rock blanked the Hearst Lumberjacks 4-0 at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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The victory allowed the Rock, now 7-1-0 on the season, to increase their lead over the Lumberjacks, 5-3-0, to four points atop the East Division standings as their six-game series switches to the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst for the next three games.

“The first period was a little slow both ways, but in the second period we really got our legs under us,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.

“The third period, it was just okay let’s lock it down. The thought the second half of this game was very indicative of the style we play.”

Josh Dickson’s sixth goal of the season, scored seven seconds after he returned to the ice after serving a two-minute minor for hooking, midway through the opening period, proved to be the game-winner.

Linemate Derek Seguin, the Rock captain, upped the home side’s advantage to 2-0 late in the middle frame when he notched the first of his two goals on the night and seventh of the season.

Seguin then added an unassisted shorthanded marker early in the third period, his eighth tally of the season, to put the Rock in front by three goals.

Timmins Rock blue-liner Brendan Boyce deposits a backhand shot behind Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Andrew Stephan for his third goal of the season during Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Boyce’s goal gave the Rock a 4-0 lead in a game they would go on to win by the same score. ANDREW AUTIO/LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE

Less than three minutes later, blue-liner Brendan Boyce made it a 4-0 hockey game when he netted his third goal of the season.

Beer was pleased to see McCarthy bounce back with a strong game in his first start since he gave up seven goals in a 7-4 setback against the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour on Nov. 26.

“That Rayside-Balfour game was not indicative of how he can play,” Beer said.

“He had a team playing front of him that night that basically rolled over and allowed the wolves to come pouncing in on him.

“Certainly, tonight he was back to the Gavin McCarthy we know and love. What a great performance.

“In the third period, I thought we did a good job of keeping the shots to the outside, but the first two periods they had some really good chances.

“He stood tall in there and made the saves necessary, knifed a couple up into the glass. That’s good management of the crease.

“He is 17 years old, but you wouldn’t know it tonight.”

While Dickson and Seguin once again led the way on the scoresheet, their coach felt neither player was necessarily at their best Tuesday night.

“Josh was not good in the first period,” Beer said.

“He had a bit of dead legs, but it just goes to show you what a veteran player, a leader like him, we needed more from him throughout the game and he gave us that in the third period.

“The goal was great. He is an offensive threat, but his attention to detail in the defensive zone, the shot blocking on the penalty kill … when you are not at your best, you find a way to contribute.

“Neither Seguin or Dickson had their best games, but both of them just continued to lead by example.

“Even when some of their minutes get cut back, which happened to Dickson there, and then they played great third periods. I am so proud of those guys.”

A number of Rock rookies shone brightly Tuesday night, as well, although it was not reflected on the scoresheet.

“Freddie (Felix Cadieux-Fredette) was electric back there,” Beer said.

“Shot blocking, there was a play, a defensive zone face-off and all of a sudden, boom, he had it on our forward’s stick in a split second. He is so quick to transition.

“Great foot work and the compete level from Freddie tonight was sensational. Every loose puck, he was on it in the D-zone, making plays. That’s the kind of stuff I love to see.

“Then, you go to the forwards and (Tyler) Patterson, (Nicolas) Pigeon, (Landon) Deforge, (Harry) Clark and (Henry) Brock, a 16 year old and four 17 year olds, were out best players tonight.

“They were sensational. We put the Deforge, Brock and Clark line together in the second period and just said screw it. We have three 17 year olds who were absolutely buzzing, generating offence for us and winning every puck battle.

“Then, we had Pig with Patty and Robie (Riley Robitaille), the savvy veteran.

“We had two lines that were just outworking guys and winning loose puck battles. That was infectious.

“That second period, from those six, and you look at a guy like Cadieux-Fredette on the back end, that transformed our night tonight.

“We don’t get there without those kind of performances from those young gentlemen.”

Special teams continued to be a strength for the Rock in Tuesday night’s contest.

“Hearst did some different things on the power play tonight and caused us some fits early,” Beer said.

“We had to make some adjustments on the fly and in the room between periods. I thought our guys handled it very well.

“They have a dangerous lineup over there. They have a lot of guys with good creativity and lethal shots. You want to keep their opportunities to a minimum.

“In the first period, they got some really good chances, but as we went along and made some tweaks, we did a better job of managing their chances.”

Even after scoring just one goal in two games against the Rock, the Lumberjacks have the most lethal offence in the NOJHL, with 36 tallies on the season.

“It has been a bit of what we did against Rayside-Balfour, too, just trying to limit their chances,” Beer said.

“They are an opportunistic team, so if you have bodies back it helps out, but I think what it comes down to for us is work ethic.

“We are not a run-and-gun team. We just can’t be. When you don’t have the high-end skill some of these other teams do, you need to do it in other ways.

“I thought for us tonight it was work ethic. It was positioning. It was shot blocking. Those were the keys for us.

“You can scheme things however you want, but if you don’t outwork the opposition and make their life miserable from a relentless standpoint, nothing will ever change for you.”

The Claude Larose Arena in Hearst can be a very difficult building to play in for visiting teams and Beer realizes the Rock will have to be at their best if they are going to continue the roll they are on to start the 2020-21 campaign.

“It is just a matter of simplifying things,” he said.

“When you go on the road, you don’t have any crowd to impress. Well, that is basically it now every time. We have nobody to impress except ourselves.

“If we can go out there and play good hockey, do the right things and get good goaltending, get a goal here or there and be good on special teams, that’s a recipe for success every night.

“Our game plan shouldn’t change going into their rink. We don’t need to go out there and play their game. It won’t be successful for us.”

In addition to picking up his first NOJHL shutout in the contest, McCarthy’s 27-save performance allowed him to record his second win of the season.

Lumberjacks goalie Andrew Stephan, who turned aside 38 of the 42 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Seguin, Boyce and McCarthy … The Rock went 0-4 on the power play, but did manage a shorthanded marker, while the Lumberjacks were 0-5 with the man advantage … Tuesday’s other action saw the Crunch overcome a 4-0 deficit to edge the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 5-4 in Cochrane, the Thunderbirds derail the Espanola Express 8-1 in Sault Ste. Marie and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians outscore the Beavers 8-6 in Blind River … The Rock will travel to Hearst to take on the Lumberjacks in the third game of their six-game set at the Claude Larose Arena on Wednesday.