Stewart Parnell scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 4-1 win over the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
It was the fourth loss in the past six games for the NOJHL’s top squad, ranked sixth in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Top 20 rankings at the start of the week.
Meanwhile, it stopped a mini two-game losing skid for the Rock, who entered the week at No. 19 on the CJHL’s list.
With coach Corey Beer at the 2019 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C., as part of the Team Canada East staff, assistant coaches Marc Bisson, James Daschuk and Sean Lee had the reigns behind the Rock bench.
After the Voodoos won the first two games of the season series — a 4-3 shootout victory in Powassan on Oct. 19 and a 5-4 overtime win at the McIntyre Arena on Sept. 15 — Bisson was happy to see his squad finally gain two points from an encounter with their East Division rivals.
“The game plan was to try and limit their time and space,” he said.
“We know they are a very skilled team and we definitely want to keep them in their own end, take away the middle, take away their speed and explosiveness, because that’s when they are dangerous.”
Even after the Voodoos finally got on the scoreboard in the third period, the Rock were able to weather the storm and prevent the visitors from gaining too much of an advantage from the swing in momentum.
“We really got back to the way we wanted to play, taking away a lot of their options,” Bisson said.
“The guys were just phenomenal down the stretch finishing off the game.”
The assistant coach was once again impressed by the strong performance turned in by Parnell.
“He’s a beast out there,” Bisson said.
“He is a 20 year old and he is so strong and so physical, such a powerful skater. He is so dominant.
“Goals don’t come easy for Stewie and with him getting a couple tonight, that is great for his confidence.
“Stewie is a player where maybe you don’t notice the small things, the face-offs and the battles he wins. He wins every battle.”
Bisson, who coaches the Rock goalies, was not surprised to see Tyler Masternak turn in another strong game against his former team.
“I have been saying for three years we have the best goaltending in the league in Masty and Vance (Meyer) has come in an done his job as a 17-year-old kid,” he said.
“They push each other, they like each other and they get along. They talk on and off the ice.
“It is a healthy competition between the two.”
While Parnell’s linemate, Karter Renouf, didn’t find the back of the net, the feeds he made on the Rock’s first two goals caught the eye of his assistant coach.
“For the second game in a row, (blue-liner) Phil Caron was the third member of that line,” Bisson said.
“We thought they were very effective on Sunday, against Hearst, so it is a line we decided to maybe keep together.
“Karter is another 20 year old who has experience playing Junior hockey who wanted to come back and play in his home town, with quite a few of his friends.
“He has just been a great, great contributor this year.”
And it wasn’t just that trio that impressed their assistant coach.
“That Derek Seguin, Josh Dickson and Cameron Kosurko line was just phenomenal tonight,” Bisson said.
“They imposed their will on Powassan and I am just so proud of the entire group.”
Having success while their coach is away at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge is nothing new for the Rock.
“When Corey was away last year, we had six games and I believe — no, I know — we got nine out of a possible 12 points,” Bisson said.
“We are absolutely looking to improve on that this year.”
Beer, of course, is happy to see his squad continuing to do well in his absence.
“He is the first one to send me a text when I get back down in the office,” Bisson said.
“He was pumped an he was watching the game there out in Dawson Creek.
Parnell, who was limited to just three games in 2018-19 because of an upper-body injury, got the puck rolling for the Rock just 1:29 in Friday night’s contest when he converted a nice feed from Renouf for his sixth goal of the season.
Then, 12-and-a-half minutes later, the duo once again combined to double the home side’s advantage to 2-0 with Parnell once again providing the finishing touches for his second goal of the night and seventh of the season.
Tyler Schwindt’s sixth goal of the season, a power-play marker, at the 4:52 mark of the middle frame increased the Rock lead to 3-0.
It appeared Masternak might be on his way to an NOJHL career-best 13th shutout, but the Voodoos were finally able to find a chink in his armour at the 8:36 mark of the third period when Joe Whittet found the back of he net for his 12th goal of the season.
In the game’s dying minutes, the Voodoos pulled goalie Luke Greenwood in favour of an extra attacker, but he move backfired.
After Riley Robitaille’s shot at the vacant Powassan cage sailed just wide, Josh Dickson raced into the corner to pounce on a loose puck and throw it back in front of the visitors’ net.
From in close, Robitaille converted the set up for his sixth goal of the campaign to make the final score 4-1 in favour of the Rock.
While he would have preferred to see his squad emerge with two points Friday night, Voodoos coach Max Gavin is confident Powassan’s current skid is just a small bump in the road.
“If you look at our lineup tonight, we had three APs (affiliate players) and our starting goalie (Owen Say) is gone, with the Rock coach and Team Canada East, so playing a second game in two nights after a tough one against Cochrane, they came out flying,” he said.
“I thought we matched them later on in the game and we made a push. I thought it was a good hockey game overall and I thought both teams played well.
“We had a few breakaways and if we had capitalized on them and a couple of other backdoor plays we had it could have been a different game, for sure, but that’s hockey.
“It’s a 56-game season and we are only half way through it.”
Gavin knows if his team is going to hit a bump in the road, now is the time to do it not in or close to the playoffs.
“Last year, we had some struggles going into Christmas and I think we were 12 points back when we started in January and we wound up finishing three points back,” he said.
“In the second half, we play a lot in our conference, so it is going to fluctuate. We are just focusing on getting better. Part of us getting better right now is getting healthy and getting some guys back from suspensions.”
Gavin was impressed with the play of a number of his Voodoos Friday night.
“Greg Trudeau-Paquet is always dynamic out there and I thought Parker Bowman and Cade Herd had good games,” he said.
“On the back end, I thought our new guy, Jack Craycroft, did a nice job stepping in. He flew from Flin Flon, Man., Thursday and landed in Timmins at 11:45 p.m., stepped in and played well.
“I thought Luke Greenwood, our goaltender, played well and made some big saves.”
Despite the victory, the Rock (22-5-1-1) remain a point behind the second-place Hearst Lumberjacks (23-10-0-1) — who were able to fend off a surprisingly stubborn Espanola Express squad 5-3 Friday night — and the Voodoos (25-5-0-0).
It is important to note, however, the Rock have five games in hand on the Lumberjacks and one on the Voodoos.
Masternak, who turned aside 34 of the 35 shots he faced, picked up his 12th win of the season for the Rock, while Greenwood blocked 31 of the 34 shots the Rock directed his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Parnell, Masternak and Renouf … Newly acquired blue-liner Quinn Schneidmiller made his Rock debut Friday night, but it did not last long as he was forced to leave the contest with what appeared to be an upper-body injury … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,068 … The Rock will return to action on Thursday, when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners. Their next home game, on Sunday, Dec. 15, will see the return of the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss.