FRENCH RIVER – The Timmins Rock fired 60 shots at Rapids goalie Spencer Eschyshcyn Sunday night, but they dropped a 4-3 decision to their NOJHL East Division rivals.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
It was the fourth-straight loss for the Rock (4-9-0-1), who remain in last place in the East Division standings — seven points behind the second-place Rapids (7-7-2-0) and 13 points behind the division-leading Voodoos, whom they will meet Monday night in Powassan.
It was also the second-straight game in which the Rock have generated 50-plus shots on goal and emerged with nothing to show for their effort, after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Espanola Express (54 shots on goal) during the NOJHL Showcase.
“When you fire 60 shots on goal, you expect to win,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“This loss wasn’t from a lack of trying on our part.”
The Rock got off to t a strong start Sunday night, building up a 2-0 lead during the opening 20 minutes of play on captain Wayne Mathieu’s first two goals of the season.
Mathieu’s second goal was a power-play marker.
“Our execution points were there and our consistency points were there in the first period,” Beer said.
“There was some good passing and we made some good, crisp plays and having Wayne Mathieu get off the snide is a big thing for us. I thought our first period was real good.”
Mathieu (13, 2-6-8, 12), who scored 29 goals for the Rock during the 2016-17 NOJHL campaign, had been off to a bit of a slow start offensively this season.
The Rapids battled back to tie things up at 2-2 during the second period.
Gregory Trudeau-Paquet netted his 12th goal of the season just 1:43 into the frame and then Will Frustaglio added his third goal of the season six minutes later.
“Any time you go penalty, power play back and forth the rhythm of the game gets kind of taken away,” Beer said.
“We didn’t do a very good job in the second period and we also tried to get caught up doing too much of the offensive game maybe. They outshot us 22-15 in the second period and that’s not the kind of game we want to play.
“We still had a chance, though, tied at 2-2 going into the third period, but we just weren’t good enough in the third period.”
Spencer Dupuis’ first goal of the season at the 4:45 mark of the frame staked the Rapids to their first lead of the night, 3-2.
Brayden Crowe then provided a little insurance when he added a power-play marker, his second goal of the season, two-and-a-half minutes later to put the home side in front by a pair of goals.
That goal would prove to be the game-winner, as the Rock pulled goalie Eric Jackson in favour of an extra attacker late in the third period and Stewart Parnell scored his fourth goal of the season.
That would be as close as the Rock would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Rapids hung on to post the 4-3 victory.
“We probably generated another four or five shots at the end of the game,” Beer said.
“We ran a set play off a face-off and we hit a post. Then, we got another shot and the puck trickled across the goal crease.
“We were left wondering what we have to do to get one of those goals that just seem to elude us. Maybe some other teams are a little bit luckier than we are.”
While the Rock had more power-play opportunities than the Rapids, Beer was not happy with some of the penalties his squad took Sunday night.
“When we take penalties in the offensive zone late in games that end up resulting in game-winning goals against us, those are the small miscues that cannot continue to haunt this club,” he said.
“We did everything right to give ourselves a chance to win and those types of penalties are the ones that really haunt you.”
Beer was referring to a hooking penalty forward Connor Hoffmann took that led to Crowe’s game-winning power-play marker.
Despite the loss, the coach was pleased with the effort put forth by a number of Rock players Sunday night.
“Up front, I thought Wayne Mathieu played one of his better games this season and Evan Kentish-Stack was sensational,” he said.
“He was phenomenal on the penalty kill and did good things on the power play, too. He got a little time there and he was incredible.
“James Redmond, Jared Hester and Josh Anderson were all real good on the back end, too. Their two-way transition was evident all night and Hester was a master on the power play.”
Anderson played his first game in a Rock uniform after being acquired from the Cobourg Cougars, of the OJHL, earlier in the week.
“He is not really up to speed on all of our systems yet, or our set plays, but I thought his instincts were great,” Beer said.
“He is an elite skater and he was able to quarterback the one power play and you could not ask for a better injection of a new player into our lineup.”
Anderson practised with his new teammates Saturday night before the Rock headed out on the road early Sunday morning.
“He handled himself very well in his first game and we are very excited about what he is going to bring to our hockey club long term,” Beer said.
The Rock dressed seven defencemen for Sunday night’s game, but Anderson was paired with Redmond for the most part.
“They were probably our top pairing overall,” Beer said.
“I would be remiss, as well, if I didn’t mention how well Grant McClellan played. He doesn’t bring the same offensive dynamic to the lineup, but he was an absolute horse in terms of the defensive zone, blocking shots and playing tough minutes against French River’s better players.”
Will Caston made a successful return to the Rock lineup Sunday night after recovering from an upper-body injury.
“He acquitted himself pretty well,” Beer said.
“He was a little rusty in terms of handling the puck, but it was nice to get his big body back in the lineup. He is such a calm, cerebral player.”
Eschyshcyn turned aside 57 of the 60 shots the Rock fired his way to pick up his fourth win on the season for the Rapids.
Jackson blocked 35 of the 39 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars were Rapids forward Chad Lafortune (two assists), Eschyshcyn and Mathieu … The Rock went 1-10 on the power play, while the Rapids were 1-7 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Noelville Arena was 309 … Sunday night’s other action saw the Lumberjacks double up the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-2 in Hearst, the Canadians get past the Soo Eagles 4-2 in Rayside-Balfour and the Thunderbirds dump the Elliot Lake Wildcats 8-4 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will take on the Voodoos in Powassan on Monday night before returning home to host the Lumberjacks Friday night.
Game pics courtesy of Dal Photography