Stewart Parnell scored a goal and added a pair of assists to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 4-1 win over the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.
Parnell, who was one of the NOJHL Eastlink 3 Stars of the Week last week, now has nine points in his past three games.
For the most part, Parnell has been playing on a line with converted blue-liner Phil Caron and Zach Smith during that time.
“We are accountable for our mistakes, we work hard and we listen to (Rock coach Corey Beer) Beersy,” Parnell said.
“His systems really help us get things going offensively, especially when we enter the neutral zone with speed. It opens up a lot of things.’
Parnell acknowledged it was a little tougher to get things going against the Rapids Sunday afternoon.
“Today (Sunday) wasn’t our best game, but in the last 10 minutes we really came together and put the game away,” Parnell said.
After a tough 2018-19 campaign that saw an upper body injury limit him to just three games, Parnell (34, 17-20-37, 21) is now just five points off his season high in points and has established a new high in goals.
“I have been able to get in a lot more games this year, thankfully, and I have just been putting the work in,” he said.
“After that injury last year, I have just been grinding.”
Sunday’s victory was the fifth-straight win for the Rock (32-6-1-1) who now find themselves six points clear of the idle Powassan Voodoos (30-7-0-0) in the battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings.
Sunday afternoon’s victory concluded a perfect weekend for the Rock, after they knocked off the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 10-1 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
Clearly the Rapids (12-26-4-1) — who now have a three-point advantage in the battle for the final playoff spot in the East Division — gave the Rock a much tougher battle than they had against the Gold Miners (10-26-5-1).
Like Saturday night, the Rock jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead Sunday afternoon before allowing their opponent to cut into that advantage late in the frame.
Parnell’s 17th goal of the season, at the 4:39 mark of the opening period, put the Rock in front 1-0.
Just under 10 minutes later, Tyler Gilberds netted his 15th goal of the season, a marker that would stand up to be the game-winner.
With Josh Dickson in the penalty box serving a pair of two-minute minors for high sticking, Levi Siau potted a power-play marker, his fifth goal of the season, to give the visitors some momentum heading into the intermission.
The Rapids were unable to build on that momentum in a scoreless middle frame, however.
And midway through the third period, Parnell set up blue-liner Josh Anderson for his 10th goal of the season to increase the Rock’s advantage to a pair of goals.
Then, with just under four minutes remaining in regulation Caron found the back of the net with his 14th goal of the season to close out the scoring.
Like Parnell, Caron has been red-hot and he has seven points in his past three games and he has collected at least a point in six-straight games.
“We have been keeping our feet moving out there, making plays and feeding off each other’s energy,” he said.
“We have been getting the puck on the net and making good plays. I really like playing with Stewie and Zach.”
As one might expect, Beer was not as happy with the Rock’s effort Sunday afternoon as he had been the previous evening.
“We were a little lackadaisical out there early on, to be quite honest,” he said.
“Maybe it was a carryover from a 10-1 hockey game, but we were very casual. There was not much intensity on our part and not much life in the building early on.
“Obviously, I was quite happy with the finish. You always want to come out with the win and I can’t complain about that this afternoon.”
Beer knows how dangerous the Rapids can be, especially when they are in a life-and-death battle for the final playoff spot in the division.
“There is definitely more skill on their side, more compete, top to bottom throughout their lineup,” he said.
“They have two good lines that contribute some offence, so we were tested a bit more.
“I just didn’t think we had our legs under us, for whatever reason we thought it was going to be clean possession and clean entries all night, but it wasn’t there.
“They played good defence and we didn’t have much life in our game until late.”
The Rock coach was once again impressed by Parnell and his linemates Sunday afternoon.
“He is doing things the right way,” Beer said.
“It is puck possession down low and as much as everyone wants to see the goal production, that line — they got broken up later on — him, Zach and Phil, were good.
“It is the way they are scoring goals. It is not just these odd-man rushes. It is off of low-net cycles. It is off of plays where our offence generates the shots.
“It is a good thing from a coaching standpoint where you can sit there and look at the film and see guys scoring goals because they are doing it the right way.”
The Rock boast arguably the best blue-line in the entire NOJHL and Anderson, who brings Major Junior experience to the unit, was at his best Sunday afternoon.
“Josh is a big part of our back end, but I think the best part of his game tonight was during the second intermission when he, Riley Robitaille and Josh Dickson took the room by the scruff of their necks and said we are going to win this game no matter who wants to play hard and who doesn’t,” Beer said.
“That is just good leadership and Josh was very vocal on the ice this afternoon, as well. Some guys weren’t and I think that contributed to our struggles early on.
“Down the stretch, Josh played big minutes. He had intensity and he had bite to his game.
“The offence is always there, but when he has the added element of playing good defence, with good, active gaps, all that stuff, it is really important.”
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak turned aside 19 of the 20 shots directed his way to pick up his 20th win of the season.
Rapids netminder Ben Montgomery, who blocked 26 of the 30 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
ROCK 10 GOLD MINERS 1
The Rock rolled over the Gold Miners 10-1 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night, with a four-goal second-period outburst broking open what had been a close game to the delight of the 943 fans who braved Saturday evening’s winter storm.
Goals by Smith, his fifth of the season, and Caron, his first of two on the night and 12th of the season, allowed the Rock to build a 2-0 first-period advantage.
“We knew it was just a matter of doing the right things out there, sticking with the system and guys staying in their lanes,” Caron said, describing the patience the Rock displayed Saturday night.
“Sometimes, you are not going to get the bounces right away. You just have to keep grinding and eventually you will capitalize on your chances.
“Eventually, we were able to bury a lot of them tonight and it felt nice.”
Patrick Murphy’s first goal of the season, with just 25 seconds remaining in the frame, allowed the Gold Miners to pull within a single marker before the end of the frame, however, even though his squad was outshot 20-6 in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Any momentum that tally might have given the visitors quickly dissipated once play resumed in the second period, though.
Goals by blue-liner Evan Beaudry, his third of the season, and Parnell, his 16th of the campaign, less than two minutes apart early in the middle frame allowed the Rock to push their lead to 4-1.
Gilberds added his 14th goal of the season just over a minute later to push the home side’s advantage to four goals.
And Dickson added his 19th goal of the season late in the period to send the Rock to the dressing room for the second intermission enjoying a 6-1 lead.
The Rock kept pushing the pace in the third period and Riley Brousseau chipped in with his seventh goal of the season and Caron added his second goal of the night and 13th of the campaign less than a minute later to extend the lead to 8-1 before the frame was five minutes old.
Blue-liner Brendan Boyce then struck for a power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season, just past the midway mark in the period.
Brousseau’s second goal of the game and eighth of the season with less than three minutes to play closed out the scoring and made the final 10-1 in favour of the Rock.
Watching his team excel, both offensively and defensively, is enough to put any coach in a good mood and Beer was all smiles following Saturday night’s contest.
“After the first period, we just had to fine tune the trigger points for our offence and clean up our transition a bit,” he said.
“We were a little sloppy to end the first period, then, from that point on we were in great shape.”
The continued success of the Caron experiment also gave the coach reason to smile Saturday night.
“A guy like Phil has got the speed and the quickness,” Beer said.
“It is something that in the confines of our offensive makeup, with a lot of creativity and guys switching off, it fits Phil’s game pretty well.
“You saw it in spurts when he was a defenceman, how he would jump into the play. Now, the puck is on his stick a lot.
“I thought his tracking and his forecheck was really good tonight and that whole line was effective.”
Brousseau also impressed his coach with his effort Saturday night.
“This new year, he has got more jump and he is willing to take chances offensively,” Beer said.
“He is a smart, heading player and he has always been good both ways.”
Masternak turned aside 14 of the 15 shots directed his way to earn his 19th win over the season.
Gold Miners goalie Kohl Reddy, who blocked 40 of the 50 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Parnell, Anderson and Gilbreds, while Caron, Brousseau and Smith were honoured Saturday night … The Rock went 0-5 on the power play Sunday afternoon, while the Rapids were 1-6 with the man advantage. Saturday night, the Rock went 2-5 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon was 985 … The Rock will head out on the road for a game against the Voodoos in Powassan Saturday night and a rematch against the Rapids in French River Sunday afternoon. The next home game will be on Saturday, Feb. 1, when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena.