FRENCH RIVER — For the second-straight night, the Timmins Rock squandered a one-goal third-period lead en route to two-goal loss on the road.
Exactly 24 hours after blowing a 1-0 advantage and surrendering three unanswered third-period goals in a 3-1 loss to the Voodoos at the Powassan Sportsplex, the Rock failed to hold a 2-1 lead at the Noelville Arena — resulting in a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the French River Rapids.
Rock coach Corey Beer was certainly not a happy camper following the latest setback.
“We only gave up one shot in the house tonight,” he said.
“Defensively, I thought we were not bad, but we have to find a way to win these games.
“Our goalie (Nicholas Dicks) has got to do a better job of making saves. You can’t give up whatever number of shots like we did, with only one in the red zone and lose this game.
“It is just unacceptable. Unfortunately, however, both nights we only had half of the team working and when you play good hockey teams, you have to have everybody.”
With a record of 6-15-2-1 on the season, the Rapids might be in sixth place in the East Division standings, but they have looked like anything but a last-place club in recent games.
“There has been some spark in their game,” Beer said.
“I thought through 40 minutes we did a good job against them but we had too many passengers in the third period and next thing you know the game is out of hand.”
Saturday night, the Rock jumped out to a 1-0 advantage on Josh Dickson’s eighth goal of the season, a power-play marker, with 2:15 remaining in the first period.
The Rapids were able to get back on even terms 1:28 into the middle frame on Chad Lafortune’s second goal of the season.
The Rock were able to regain the lead late in the frame, with Matt Capisciolto netting his seven goal of the season to put Timmins up 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
Defenceman Connor Loft’s seventh goal of the season, at the 6:41 mark of the third period, got the Rapids back on even terms, however.
Just over six minutes later Philippe Daoust put the Rapids in front 3-2 when he scored his fifth goal of the season.
Then, with Dicks on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, Hunter Brazier iced the victory for the Rapids when he deposited his eighth goal of the season into an empty net to make the final score 4-2.
Beer knows the Rock can’t keep expecting the same players to carry the load game after game.
“Our team is top heavy and there is no sustainability in the bottom,” he said.
“It is a very tough task for the coaching staff to try and mix and match when you have five or six guys where the buy-in just isn’t there.”
Beer and his staff find little comfort in the Rock’s ability to build up leads in the opening 40 minutes of play in back-to-back games — especially with such a tight race at the top of the NOJHL standings.
“It is hard to play a full 60 minutes most nights,” he said.
“Teams are going to find ways to slow you down, but this weekend small victories weren’t on our target list. We were hungry for points, but unfortunately, like I said, half our squad had their minds on that and the other half had their minds on something different.
“This is Junior ‘A’ hockey, big boy hockey and it is not about trying and working hard out there. It’s about getting it done. Too many guys on our team are not willing to do that right now.”
With Saturday night’s loss, the Rock (14-9-1-0) — who sat atop the NOJHL’s overall standings not that long ago — are now third in the East Division and tied for fourth overall with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
“You look at the standings and you have a surging Cochrane (12-10-0-1) team and you have a Hearst (9-10-2-1) team that just got a bunch of great players back in their lineup,” Beer said.
“You can blink and then open your eyes and find yourself back in that four or five slot within no time. I keep going back to it, but half of our team understands that fully, but the other half I think are just along for the ride.”
That ride, of course, might be over sooner, rather than later for some for some of those Rock players.
“I am not sure how much longer some of them are going to be along for the ride,” Beer said.
“We don’t have any time to sit here and slip and hope for good hockey. We need to be playing good hockey now, especially given how tight our side is this season — and that includes French River given how good they are playing right now.”
Despite the loss, there were a few Rock players who impressed their coach on the weekend.
“Tyler Masternak played a phenomenal game in Powassan Friday night,” Beer said.
“He gave us every chance to win, but unfortunately he is a little dinged up and couldn’t go tonight. It was too bad, because obviously he is one of the stars of our team.
“Derek Seguin was hurt and couldn’t play tonight, but he was great in Friday’s game.
“Both nights, Will Caston and Josh Anderson were absolute horses on the back end.
“I thought James Redmond had a really good game tonight, as well, and Owen Shier, with the loss of his grandfather, had a great weekend and scored a goal. I think that was huge for him.
“Up front, it was few and far between. Josh Dickson was really good and I liked the game Keegan McMullen and Eamon Bollinger played, but after that we were scratching pretty thin.
“It’s not okay to have one good shift and one bad shift. You need to be consistent in this league. If you are not producing points, you certainly cannot be a minus player. Unfortunately, we have too many guys who don’t understand that concept.”
Rapids goalie Marshall Frappier stopped 45 of the 47 shots the Rock directed his way to pick up his third win of the season.
Dicks, who 30 of the 33 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars were Daoust, Rock defenceman Josh Anderson (one assist) and Lafortune … Rock forward Riley Robitaille served the third game of the seven-game suspension he picked up at the end of the Nov. 3 home-ice loss to the Blind River Beavers … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Rapids were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Noelville Arena was 319 … Saturday’s other action saw the Crunch dump the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 5-2 in Cochrane, the Express edge the Hearst Lumberjacks 3-2 in Espanola, the Blind River Beavers triple the Wildcats 6-2 in Elliot Lake and the Thunderbirds get past the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Dal Photography