Puck drops on East final Tuesday

Timmins Rock forward Tyler Gilberds, shown here in action during his team’s 2-1 victory over Hearst at the McIntyre Arena on Sept. 19, had two game-winning goals against the Lumberjacks in the regular season as the two NOJHL East Division rivals split their eight games. Gilberds and his Rock teammates will welcome the Lumberjacks to the McIntyre Arena for Game 1 of the best-of-seven East Division final on Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m. FILE PHOTO/THE DAILY PRESS

One point separated them atop the NOJHL’s East Division standings during the regular season and they split their eight head-to-head games, so it is only appropriate the Timmins Rock will tangle with the Hearst Lumberjacks in the best-of-seven final starting at the McIntyre Arena on Tuesday.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

After sweeping one East Division semifinal series 4-0 from the French River Rapids, the Rock had to wait until the Lumberjacks wrapped up the other 4-2 over the Powassan Voodoos.

During the regular season, the Rock finished with a record of 33-8-5-2 to claim top spot in the East Division, while the Lumberjacks wrapped up play at 35-11-2-0.

Head-to-head, the Rock took three of the four games played at the McIntyre Arena during the regular season — 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 19 (game-winning goal Christopher Engelbert, winning goalie Gavin McCarthy), 4-3 on Oct. 29 (game-winning goal Tyler Gilberds, winning goalie McCarthy) and 5-4 on Nov. 30 (game-winning goal Gilberds, winning goalie McCarthy), while dropping 5-4 overtime decision on Feb. 27 (game-winning goal Mathieu Comeau, winning goalie Matteo Gennaro).

At the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst, it was the Lumberjacks winning three of the four games — 6-3 on Nov. 28 (game-winning goal Riley Klugerman, winning goalie Liam Oxner), 5-4 in overtime on March 18 (game-winning goal Brayden Palfi, winning goalie Gennaro) and 2-1 in a shootout on March 25 (game-winning goal Dylan Ford, winning goalie Oxner), after dropping a 5-1 decision to the Rock on Nov. 19 (game-winning goal Cameron Dutkiewicz, winning goalie McCarthy).

The Rock have yet to play an overtime game since the playoffs began, while the Lumberjacks defeated the Voodoos 4-3 in the sixth and deciding game of their series.

During the regular season, the Rock were 2-5 during five-minute overtime periods and 0-2 during shootouts, while the Lumberjacks were 7-2 in overtime and 2-0 during shootouts.

There are, of course, no shootouts in the playoffs, with teams continuing to play until a winner is decided.

In terms of offence, the Rock (225 goals) and the Lumberjacks (217 goals) were the two highest scoring teams in the NOJHL during the regular season.

Individually, the Rock had nine snipers — captain Tyler Schwindt (48, 34-30-64, 36), Riley Brousseau (48, 19-38-57, 12), blue-liner Dutkiewicz (45, 18-25-43, 39), Engelbert (44, 17-22-39, 13), Gilberds (43, 16-21-37, 50), Henry Brock (43, 15-19-34, 28), Liam Wells (46, 13-10-23, 45), Nicolas Pigeon (38, 12-35-47, 23) and Justin Charette (47, 11-13-24, 2) — who cracked the 10-goal plateau during the regular season.

And three others — Harry Clark (13, 9-8-17, 8), Nicholas Frederick (33, 9-15-24, 16) and Nolan Ring (34, 9-13-22, 16) — who just missed the mark.

Meanwhile, the Lumberjacks boasted 10 snipers — Robbie Rutledge (46, 39-28-67, 27), Raphael Lajeunesse (45, 22-36-58, 51), Comeau (48, 19-22-41, 0), Ryan Glazer (18, 15-5-20, 22), Zachary Demers (40, 12-52-64, 29), Klugerman (44, 12-23-35, 18), Tyler Patterson (45, 11-17-28, 14), Mason Bazaluk (40, 11-9-20, 18), Ford (45, 10-27-37, 30), Palfi (47, 10-13-23, 24 — who scored in double figures and Cody Walker (45, 9-14-23, 20) just missed that mark.

Since the playoffs began, the Rock have three players — Pigeon (4, 3-1-4, 0), Schwindt (4, 2-2-4, 2) and blue-liner Carson Cox (4, 2-0-2, 0) — who have at least two goals, while five members of the Lumberjacks —Lajeunesse (6, 5-5-10, 0), Glazer (6, 5-0-5, 4), Demers (6, 4-4-8, 6), Patterson (6, 2-3-5, 0) and blue-liner Jaden Raad (6, 2-2-4, 6) — have reached that plateau.

Defensively, the Rock (124 goals) allowed the second fewest tallies in the NOJHL, second only to the West Division’s Soo Thunderbirds (101 goals), while the Lumberjacks (139 goals) allowed the fourth fewest markers in the regular season.

The duo of McCarthy (2,300:00, 23-8-5-2, 3, 2.53, .902) and Konrad Simard (600:00, 10-0-0-0, 2, 2.10, .902) provided solid goaltending for the Rock during the regular season.

At the other end of the rink, the Lumberjacks received solid netminding from their duo of Gennaro (1,230:00, 14-5-2-0, 2, 2.78, .907) and Oxner (1,639:00, 21-6-0-0, 2, 2.93, .901).

In the playoffs, McCarthy (240:00, 4-0-0-0, 1, 2.00, 928) and Oxner (364:00, 4-2-0-0, 1, 2.31, .914) have played every second of every game for the Rock and Lumberjacks respectively.

In a close playoff series, special teams can often prove to be the deciding factor.

So far, during the 2022 playoffs, the Rock have the fourth-best power play in the NOJHL (3-18, 16.7 per cent), while the Lumberjacks (2-18, 11.1 per cent) rank No. 7 in terms of efficiency.

Neither team has been quite as effective on the penalty kill, with the Rock ranking No. 7 (12-14, 85.7 per cent) and the Lumberjacks No. 10 (14-20, 70.0 per cent).

Neither team has scored or allowed a shorthanded goal to this point in the playoffs.

During the regular season, the Lumberjacks had the best power play in the NOJHL (57-228, 25.0 per cent), while the Rock were third (51-224, 22.8 per cent).

The Lumberjacks were also more efficient on the penalty kill in the regular season, sitting at No. 3 (205-241, 85.1 per cent), while the Rock were No. 6 (150-184, 81.5 per cent).

On the other hand, the Rock gave their opponents 57 fewer opportunities with the man advantage during the regular season, which could prove to be an important factor in a seven-game series.

In terms of shorthanded goals, the Rock scored five while allowing three during the regular season compared to the Lumberjacks who scored five but surrendered nine.

Both Game 1 of the series, on Tuesday, and Game 2, on Wednesday, at the McIntyre Arena are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

The series will switch to the Claude Larose Arena for Game 3, on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., and Game 4, on Sunday, at 4 p.m.

Game 5, if necessary, would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Monday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m.

If necessary, Game 6 would be played at the Claude Larose Arena on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.

Game 7, if necessary, would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m.

The winner of the East Division final will then move on to face the winner of the West Division final between the Soo Thunderbirds and the Soo Eagles.