UPDATE / GALLERY: Rock roll over Gold Miners, move into top spot in East

Timmins Rock forward Liam Wells lifts the puck up and over Kirkland Lake Gold Miners goalie Trent Boryszczuk during the third period of Friday night’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. Unfortunately for Rock fans, the puck sailed just wide of the post, but Wells had the last laugh as he scored his 16th goal of the season, a power-play marker, later in the frame, helping the Rock secure a 5-3 victory. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock continued their dominance of the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, posting a 5-3 victory at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

It was the 34th victory in 34 games over the past five seasons for the Rock (16-8-2-0), who moved into sole possession of top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — two points ahead of the Powassan Voodoos (15-9-0-2).

The Gold Miners have been playing better since Kyle Adams took over as coach, going 2-7-1-0 in their past 10 games, and they currently hold the fourth and final playoff position in the East Division.

“We had a decent game, but in our eyes it wasn’t good enough,” Adams said.

“We turned the puck over way too many times. Maybe we didn’t have our legs under us quite all game and we took some lazy penalties because of it.

“Overall, we did some good things but we definitely have to clean up some things in the D Zone. We definitely have to play a little bit harder, a little bit more physical, but again, it’s a work in progress with this group.

“We have had a couple of big wins leading up to this game and we are just going to keep plugging around. Hopefully, we can turn it around and hit our stride near playoff time.”

The Rock, who have won all four meetings with the Gold Miners in 2023-24, got off to a fast start Friday night.

Thomas Beard’s eighth goal of the season, a power-play marker, put the Rock in front 1-0 at the 7:33 mark of the opening period.

And Lucas Lowe added another power-play marker, his third goal of the campaign, five minutes later.

The Gold Miners were able to cut into the Rock lead before the first intermission, as Benjamin Armatage scored his ninth goal of the season.

It appeared the Rock had restored their two-goal advantage with 6:15 remaining in the opening period, but referee Justin Punchard waived off the apparent marker.

The Rock did eventually pull in front 3-1, with blue-liner Sam Gallagher scoring his second goal of the season 13:42 into the middle frame.

Kaeden McArthur followed with his 14th tally of the season, a goal that would eventually prove to be the game-winner, 20 seconds later.

“The play started off a face-off,” McArthur said.

“Gally (Gallagher) got it on the point, shot it, hit off the glass, saw it bounce out and I just put it in from there.”

McArthur’s 14 goals in 26 games this season have already surpassed the 11 he had in 35 games split between the Blind River Beavers and the Rock in 2022-23.

“I am feeling pretty comfortable out there,” he said.

“I worked hard in the summer to get myself ready to play and it is showing out there.”

Perhaps the biggest difference is McArthur has been relatively healthy this season.

“I am hoping to be able to keep going, scoring these goals,” he said.

McArthur was teamed with Beard and Jack Anderson during Friday night’s contest.

“We just worked hard in the O Zone,” he said.

“We weren’t the greatest in the D Zone. We can get better at that, but we were really effective in the O Zone, getting pucks deep, chasing. We got a couple of good chances and buried a couple.”

The Gold Miners refused to roll over, however, and Jacob Lamoureux scored a power-play marker, his fifth goal of the season, 26 seconds later.

Liam Wells’ power-play marker, his 16th goal of the season, provided the Rock with a little more insurance late in the third period.

Once again, the Gold Miners continued to fight their way back into the contest, with Benjamin Armatage netting a power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season, with 2:46 remaining in regulation.

The Gold Miners pulled goalie Trent Boryszczuk in favour of an extra attacker in the game’s final minutes in hopes of tying things up, but they were unable to close the gap any further.

The Gold Miners coach acknowledged his team needs to develop a little more consistency.

“I think we need to learn how to win,” Adams said.

“They lost a few games at the beginning (of the season), they get in a rut, they come back and win a few, but they have to be consistent, know they can beat anybody in this league.

“We didn’t play well, but hats off to Timmins. They beat us 5-3 but in my mind we were still right there. We still have a lot of work to do, but some things I was happy with, somethings I wasn’t.”

That said, the coach is confident his squad is moving in the right direction.

“From what I have seen in the last month, we are,” Adams said.

“It is tough on everybody when you are changing everything up, starting with a whole new blueprint but they are picking it up. For us, it is just going to be time.”

Once the Gold Miners are 100 per cent on the same page with their coach, he sees a bright future for the team.

“It’s a 200-foot game,” Adams said.

“I would like to see us be a bit more physical. We have some talent, but we are not the most talented team in the league. We have to know our hard work will get us to the next level.

“We have to consistently work hard for 60 minutes and if we don’t do that we get into penalty trouble because we get lazy, tired. If we are firing on all cylinders, rolling four lines, playing that gritty style of hockey, mixed in with our skill, we are going to be tough to beat.”

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was happy to see his squad secure its third-straight victory and 13th in the past 16 games.

“I thought it was a solid game, over all, but there were some bad moments, a lot of good moments, as well,” he said.

A number of Rock skaters impressed their coach with their effort Friday night.

“I thought Harry (Clark) was fantastic tonight and Sam Gallagher was great back there (on the blue-line) tonight, he was really good,” Perry said.

“(Captain) Felix Cadieux-Fredette was good, as well, like is always. I though Thomas Beard had a great game, as well.”

Even though the Rock continued their string of success against the Gold Miners, Perry noted Kirkland Lake has been a much tougher opponent this season.

“The last two games we played them in their barn (Joe Mavrinac Community Complex), we barely got out of there (with the two points),” he said.

“They played another good game tonight. I thought we were a little bit better, but they are coming. If you are not ready to play against them, you are going to lose.”

In the past, the Rock have struggled against goaltenders who catch with their right hand, but they managed to get five pucks past Boryszczuk Friday night.

“The (Jake) Dubinsky kid in Cochrane last year was great against us every time we played them, but it was just one of those things,” Perry said.

“Tonight, we were just relentless on pucks and our power play did a really great job. I thought our penalty kill did a great job, as well.

“It was just a matter of getting to the net on that guy (Boryszczuk). We were standing in the blue paint. Beardo got one standing in the blue paint, Wellsy got one standing in the blue paint, K-Mac got one coming off the end wall, standing in the blue paint.”

The Rock were missing a couple of key contributors for Friday night’s contest.

Forward Nolan Ring, normally one-third of the Rock’s top line, was walking around with a sling on his upper-body injury, sustained during a win over the Iroquois Falls Storm on Nov. 17.

Blue-liner Kyle Trottier, on the other, hand looked like he might be getting close to returning from his upper-body injury.

“I would say he is day-to-day right now,” Perry said, of the latter.

“We miss both of those guys. They are a big part of the heartbeat of this team. Trotts has had a really tough year personally with injuries and Ringer is the ultimate warrior.

“We miss them a lot. We can’t wait to have them back.”

Rock goalie Patrick Boivin stopped 21 of the 24 shots he faced to earn his ninth win of the season.

Boryszczuk, who turned aside 29 of the 34 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were McArthur, Armatage and Lowe … The Rock went 3-4 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 2-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 978 … Friday’s other action saw the Hearst Lumberjacks dump the Voodoos 3-1 in Powassan, the Rapids knock off the Iroquois Falls Storm 5-2 in French River, the Greater Sudbury Cubs get past the Paper Kings 5-3 in Espanola and the Eagles double up the Elliot Lake Vikings 10-5 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. … The Rock will travel to Hearst to take on the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Recreation Centre on Thursday, at 7 p.m. The two teams will then meet in the second half of the home-and-home series at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m.