Timmins Rock forward Dylan McElhinny celebrates his first-period goal with teammates, from left, Bode Dunford, Christopher Engelbert and Cameron Dutkiewicz during Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. McElhinny’s goal staked the Rock to a 1-0 lead in a game they would go on to win 5-2. McElhinny was ejected from the contest late in the third period after being assessed a five-minute major for head contact and a game misconduct. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Nicolas Pigeon scored a goal and added a pair of assists in his return from a four-game suspension to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 5-2 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.
The victory allowed the Rock (16-2-1-0) to pull within one point of the Powassan Voodoos (15-3-3-1) atop the NOJHL’s East Division and overall standings.
And the Rock still have three games in hand on their rivals.
Dylan McElhinny’s second goal of the season, at the 5:55 mark of the opening period, staked the Rock to a 1-0 lead Sunday afternoon.
A power-play opportunity appeared to present the Rock with a chance to expand their advantage, but Eric de Repentigny’s shorthanded marker, his second goal of the season got the Gold Miners back on even terms.
Two goals in the final minute and a half of the frame allowed the Rock to reclaim the lead, however, and take a 3-1 advantage into the first intermission.
Captain Tyler Schwindt got the first of those two tallies, his 14th goal of the season and first of two on the afternoon.
Pigeon then followed with what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his fourth tally of the campaign.
“It was a super play by (Rock forward Henry) Brock, for sure,” Pigeon said.
“He has been playing good the past few games and he gave it to me in the slot. I got off a quick shot.”
Pigeon was clearly happy to be back in the lineup after sitting out the previous four games as a result of a suspension that accompanied the five-minute major for kneeing he was assessed during an 8-2 win over the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 5.
“It is always good to score when you are coming back,” he said.
Pigeon and Schwindt have proven to be an effective combo for the Rock dating back to last season.
“I love playing with Schwinny and I think we can include Brock in there, too,” he said.
“Schwinny is a great scorer and I know where he is going to be and he knows I am going to pass it to him.”
Christopher Engelbert’s shorthanded marker, his seventh goal of the season pushed the Rock lead to 4-1 just shy of the midway point in the second period.
The Gold Miners were able to cut into that advantage early in the third period, with Luca Maiuri netting his third goal of the season.
Schwindt’s second goal of the afternoon and 15th of the season, 47 seconds later, made the final scored 5-2 in favour of the Rock, icing the team’s fourth-straight victory and eighth in their past 10 games.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was happy to see his team collect another victory, but agreed their effort was not consistent from start to finish.
“We weren’t at our best this afternoon,” he said.
“For whatever reason they were giving us fits all night. Guys were trying to do things on their own page and get away from everything that has made us so successful this season, but it’s another two points and we will take them.
“It was just one of those days where for whatever reason we just didn’t have it.
“Thankfully, we have a very deep roster, with a ton of talent, but an effort like this is not going to get us very far in April.”
Perry liked what he saw from Pigeon and Schwindt Sunday afternoon.
“I think Schwinny is pretty happy to have him back,” he said.
“He is a hell of a player and we are happy he is back.”
Perry agreed one of the turning points in the game was Engelbert’s shorthanded goal, as it turned what could have been potentially a one-goal game into a 4-1 lead.
“It was a good job by those guys and a great pass by Wellsy (Liam Wells),” he said.
“It was a big one. Any time you can score a shorthanded goal, it is big.”
The coach was clearly not as impressed with his other special teams unit Sunday afternoon.
“On the flip side, our power play was not very good, so it was nice that those guys went out there (on the penalty kill) and got one back,” Perry said.
Tyler Patterson didn’t figure into the scoring Sunday afternoon, but the young Rock forward still managed to impress his coach.
“He has been playing really well,” Perry said.
“He was up and down at the beginning of the year, but his compete level has been very good lately and he has been getting rewarded by getting on the gamesheet, with goals and assists.
“I have been very happy with Patty’s play the last month.”
Gold Miners coach and general manager Kyle Smart was pleased with the play of some of his players for parts of the contest Sunday afternoon.
“We did come out real strong,” he said.
“The guys have been battling hard, but we talked about giving up goals early in games. So that was our focus going out.
“We got into some penalty trouble in the first period, taking three-straight penalties and the momentum went downhill from there.
“If we had stayed out of the penalty box, it would have been a different first period.
“There was a big lull there in the second period and we were trying to fight back from that, but it just didn’t happen.
“The guys didn’t play 60 minutes of hockey.”
The Gold Miners turned up the pressure in the third period.
“I think we out-forechecked them in the offensive zone, we out-forechecked them in the neutral zone and we outshot them,” Smart said.
“We had a real good third period and a good 10 minutes in the first period, but there are 60 minutes in a hockey game, not 30 and that’s what our guys showed up to play.
“That seems to be part and parcel of our season. Every time we get something to build on we either get a penalty, or give up a quick one right back.”
Despite the loss, a number of Gold Miners impressed their coach Sunday afternoon.
“(Michael) Sulmona was solid back there for us,” Smart said.
“He made some great plays, got the puck through to the net a couple of times when he had the opportunity. Defensively, he was really strong in our zone.
“Up front, Ryan Evenhuis played a pretty strong game, as well. He moves the puck and he is really fast.
“Jacob Hiltz is a battler and as a 20 year old he shows up and plays hard every game, tries to carry the momentum for the guys.”
Rock goalie Konrad Simard stopped 16 of the 18 shots he faced to pick up his fourth victory of the season in as many starts.
Gold Miners netminder Keaton Lyons, who turned aside 34 of the 39 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Pigeon, Schwindt and Engelbert … McElhinny was ejected from the contest late in the third period after he was assessed a five-minute major for head contact and a game misconduct … The Rock went 0-5 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 812 … Sunday’s only other contest saw the Blind River Beavers double up the Red Wings 4-2 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action on Thursday when they travel to Powassan for a showdown with the Voodoos. The next home game will see the Rock host the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m.
VIDEO “Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel