By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
KIRKLAND LAKE – The Timmins Rock crumbled all over the ice at the Joe Mavrinac Community Centre Thursday night.
Following up what coach and general manager Paul Gagne described as their worst period of the season during a 7-4 loss to the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour Saturday night, the Rock dropped a 9-4 decision in what may have been their worst game of the campaign.
“Our lineup was a little depleted, with three of our main players (Tristan Salesse, Jordan Rendle and Devin Panzeca) out of the lineup, but there is no excuse,” Gagne said.
“Tonight, our strong suit should have been on defence and that’s where we struggled, big time. We have some 20 year olds back there who normally help us out, but tonight it just didn’t happen.”
There were few positives Gagne could identify from Thursday night’s contest.
“I will give some praise again to our third line with (Kyle) Levis, (Cole) Gilligan and (Wayne) Mathieu,” he said.
“They had an incredible night. They played awesome. They had now issues, but our other lines did not play to the best of their abilities tonight.
“I know our lineup is depleted, but there is no reason not to put in the effort that should have been there.
“You don’t have to have your A players to bring your A game and the bottom line is we didn’t bring out A game tonight.”
What will be on the agenda during practice at the McIntyre Arena Friday afternoon?
“We need to focus on the details and focus on our program,” Gagne said.
“We are going to put a puck on the ice, that’s No. 1, and we are going to fight for it. If they can fight for it, that will be half the battle. We weren’t doing that tonight.”
The Rock actually got on the scoreboard first Thursday night on Jared Hester’s second goal of the season, a power-play marker, and only trailed the game 2-1 after the first period.
Dalton Anderson’s fourth goal of the season tied things up and Joel Fortin’s shorthanded goal, his eighth of the season, put the home side up by one heading into the first intermission.
Brayden Stortz scored a power-play goal, his 15th of the season, to put the Gold Miners up 3-1 just 40 seconds into the second period.
The Rock battled back to cut the deficit to one less than two minutes later, as Gilligan netted his second goal of the season.
The Gold Miners struck for a pair of goals just over a minute apart a few minutes later, however, and the Rock were not able to recover.
A.J. Rupert beat Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his third goal of the season and then Logan Fredericks added his 10thgoal to make it a 5-2 hockey game.
The Gold Miners struck even more quickly midway through the middle period, as Evan Bindenti, with his second goal of the season, and Konnor Madsen, with his second goal of the campaign, scored 13 seconds apart to put Kirkland Lake in front 7-2.
The Rock were able to cut into the lead before the end of the period, as Zachary Kercz scored his 14th goal of the season on the power play.
Any faint hopes the Rock might have had of staging a third-period comeback were quickly dashed midway through the final frame as the Gold Miners once again struck for two quick goals.
Stortz scored his 16th goal of the season and second of the game on the power play and then 43 seconds later Fortin added his ninth goal of the campaign and second of the night to put the home side up 9-3.
Gilligan added his third goal of the season and second of the night for the Rock a few minutes later, but that would be as close as Timmins would come to getting back into the hockey game.
Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was naturally pleased to see his team notch up another victory.
“I think we played well tonight, but I also think it was a combination of things as our opponent had a rough night,” he said.
“It is not always all about us and whether we win or lose, sometimes it’s about both teams.
“We played OK, but at times we were soft.”
A number of players stood out for the Gold Miners coach Thursday night, including one who made his debut with the squad.
“Dylan Holt played his first Junior ‘A’ hockey game tonight and he looked quite confident,” Lafleur said.
“He knows what to do with the puck, so we were pretty impressed with that.
“Ever since we have gotten Blake Anderson, a couple of weeks ago, he has been more than solid.
“Our blue-line has changed a lot and for now it looks to be for the better, so we are happy.”
As well as the Gold Miners have been playing recently, the coach realizes that they still have to strive to be more consistent.
“It’s a long year and there are going to be peaks and valleys,” Lafleur said.
“We didn’t get off to the same start that we normally get off to and a lot of people were panicking, but we knew what we needed to work on and what areas we needed to improve on not just personnel wise but with Xs and Os.
“We have worked hard in practice and right now it is going good. We are eventually going to hit another valley and we understand nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems.
“Somewhere in between is reality and we will just go game by game. Win or lose, we will be on a steady pace.”
Tyler Mazzocato made 16 saves to earn the victory for the Gold Miners, while Nixon turned aside 21 of the 30 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock went 2-4 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 3-8 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 275 … Thursday night’s other NOJHL game saw the Cochrane Crunch defeat the visiting Iroquois Falls Eskis 8-3 … The Rock will return to action Saturday night when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena … The Thunderbirds will take on the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.