By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
KIRKLAND LAKE – Brandon Wolfe scored a pair of goals to lead the Gold Miners to a 8-2 win over the Timmins Rock in NOJHL exhibition action at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.
The Rock looked nervous and disorganized in the early going and could have suffered an even greater loss in the franchise’s first ever game under the banner were it not for the stellar goaltending of Logan Ferrington during the first period of play.
Ferrington stopped 19 shots in the frame and the Rock trailed just 1-0 despite being badly outplayed in the period.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was not overly impressed by his squad’s effort.
“We played soft in the first two periods,” he said.
“We had a lot of jitters and we made a lot of individual mistakes. I have said it over and over. At this time of year you are going to make lots of mistakes.
“We didn’t do our assignments as we should have done them, meaning what we introduced as assignments as part of our program.
“The second period was a little bit better, but not much. We weren’t competing and they (the Gold Miners) were skating and they were forechecking.
“Our odds of making mistakes were higher because we were spending so much time playing in our defensive zone. We would give away the puck. We couldn’t get it out. We weren’t strong on our sticks.”
Gagne appreciated the play of Ferrington in the first period.
“You can’t blame Logan for the five goals he gave up tonight,” he said.
“He had to face some two-on-nones, some three-on-ones, two-on-ones, you name it.”
Dalton Anderson’s shot from in close accounted for the lone Gold Miners score in the opening frame.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rock in the second period, as the home side pumped four goals behind Ferrington to build a 5-0 advantage heading into the final frame.
Wolfe, with his first of the period, Kameron Shearer, Alexi Rivet and Wolfe, with his second of the period, added to the Kirkland Lake lead.
Gagne mercifully gave Ferrington the third period off, with affiliate puck stopper Jaedon Giguere coming on in relief.
The Gold Miners promptly greeted Giguere with a pair of goals to increase their advantage to 7-0.
Hearst native Joel Fortin and Maxime Choquette each found the back of the net in the first 2:03 of the frame.
The Rock settled down a little after that, as Tristan Salesse scored the first goal in Rock history, when he beat Gold Miners goalie Marc Audet at the 5:42 mark of the final period.
Salesse added a second goal less than five minutes later and it appeared the Rock would have a little momentum heading into the second half of the home-and-home exhibition series Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
That would not be the case, however, as Logan Fredricks — who was the trailer on a three-on-three rush — drilled a shot behind Giguere with just one second remaining on the clock to make the final score 8-2 in favour of the home side.
Gagne was a little happier with the way the Rock competed in the third period.
“When Salesse scored on the power play we were putting on a lot of pressure and we were moving the puck well, so that was encouraging,” he said.
“Then on the next power play we had, we really played well. We had good puck movement in the offensive zone, which we didn’t have in the first period or in the second period, which is normal at this time of year.
“It is nice to have some goals and maybe score seven goals ourselves, but it is a work in progress. There is no need to be negative here. The players worked on their assignments and did better in the third period. We competed a little better and we got a little pissed off and got some penalties and it was due to happen.
“So, now we will just introduce more things tomorrow that we need to work on. It is a work in progress.”
The Gold Miners gave their coach and general manager Marc Lafleur plenty to ponder Friday night.
“What I liked was our team speed, our overall speed and depth,” he said.
“I like how complete we are as a hockey team, as well, more so than other years.
“Our compete level was there tonight, but the execution could have been better but that is to be expected early in the year.”
Lafleur will be looking for improvement in the second half of the home-and-home series Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
“We hope to have a better showing tomorrow, not in terms of the score but in terms of executing, whether it be with the puck or without the puck,” he said.
The Gold Miners enjoyed balanced scoring in Friday night’s victory.
“The Anderson line got two out of the first three goals and I think all of our lines chipped in,” Lafleur said.
“As the game progressed, our Top 2 lines really started to pick things up. It was all about execution. They were off at first, I thought, and then as the game progressed they started to get to know each other and they made things happen the second half of the game.”
Like the Rock, the Gold Miners were a little bit nervous as the game — their first in front of their home-town fans this season — got underway.
“You could tell during the warm ups, you could tell before the game,” Lafleur said.
“I tell my players there is nothing wrong with being nervous. Being nervous is actually good, because it keeps you on your toes. Being nervous is good as long as you are not so nervous that it leads to stress. I thought we were too nervous tonight, but for some of these guys this was their first junior game.
“Hopefully, tomorrow they will be more comfortable and they will know what to expect.”
Audet made 21 saves to earn the victory for the Gold Miners, while Ferrington turned aside 30 shots in his two periods for the Rock and he was tagged with the loss. Giguere, meanwhile, stopped seven of the 10 shots he faced.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock are scheduled to have a pair of new players arrive in camp next week. Forward Zachary Kercz (24, 11-15-26, 42) is a 5-9, 162-pound 20 year old Aurora native who played for the Dryden Ice Dogs, of the SIJHL, last season, while Bain Cunningham (2,0-0-0, 0) is a 17 year old who was with the Burlington Cougars, of the OJHL … Saturday’s game against the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.