By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Captain Jordan Rendle scored four goals to lead the Timmins Rock to a 7-5 win over the Rapids Saturday night at the Noelville Arena.
Despite the victory, it appears the Rocks hopes of finishing second in the NOJHL’s East Division standings may have come to an end earlier in the day thanks to an off-ice decision.
Kirkland Lake skated to a 5-4 victory over the Crunch in Cochrane Friday night, but the NOJHL has ruled the Gold Miners used an ineligible player and as a result must forfeit the two points.
That would result in the Crunch picking up two points from that contest, although the standings on the NOJHL website early Sunday morning still showed Cochrane with a record of 36-14-4-1, good for 77 points, with one game remaining to play.
With the two-point reversal, the Crunch record should stand at 37-13-4-1, which would give them 79 points.
Following Saturday night’s victory, the Rock now have a record of 34-15-3-0, good for 71 points, with four games remaining to play. Therefore even if they win all four of their remaining games and the Crunch lose their one the best the Rock could hope for would be to tie Cochrane for second place.
The Crunch, by virtue of a better head-to-head record, would retain home-ice advantage.
Regardless of all the off-the-ice intrigue, the Rock took care of business Saturday night at the Noelville Arena, although they had to come from behind to accomplish the task.
“The boys played really well tonight,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“French Rapids played extremely well, too. They got a couple of good bounces, especially on their second goal. There were some little things they did well tonight.”
Gagne was, of course, impressed with the play of his captain who also picked up an assist to go along with his four goals.
“He really came through for us tonight,” he said.
“He played extremely well. That line (with Wayne Mathieu and Cory Sprague) has been on fire the last three or four days.”
Goals by Timmins native Jordan Picard, his seventh of the season, and Spencer Dupuis, his first of the campaign, staked the Rapids to a 2-0 advantage, but the Rock were able to battle back and tie things up at 2-2 before the end of the first period.
Rendle scored his 32nd goal of the season with 1:36 remaining in the frame and Tyler Romain added his 29th of the campaign with 14 seconds remaining on the clock.
Dean Kiriacou’s fifth goal of the season 2:19 into the second period gave the Rock a 3-2 lead.
Rendle’s 33rd of the season and Mathieu’s 28th of the campaign 43seconds apart increased the Rock lead to 5-2.
The Rapids were not about to roll over and play dead, however, as Brayden Crowe scored his second goal of the season and Jacob Uridil added his fifth of the campaign to cut the Rock advantage to one goal.
Rendle’s third goal of the night and 34th of the season put with just over four minutes remaining in the second period sent the two sides to the dressing room for the second intermission with the Rock enjoying a 6-4 advantage.
Rendle’s fourth goal of the night and 35th of the season put the visitors back in front by three goals at the 6:25 mark of the third period.
Eric Paquette’s first goal of the season, with the Rapids killing off a penalty cut the Rock lead to a pair of goals and made the final score 7-5.
After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period against the Voodoos in Powassan Friday night, Gagne was happy to see his squad play a full 60 minutes Saturday night against the Rapids.
“Our forecheck was good tonight,” he said.
“Even our defence played well tonight, even though we gave up three goals that should not have been allowed. They were goals that were off the plexiglass, off shin pads or on deflections. Those kinds of goals are not preventable.
“We just played a good, solid road game tonight. We had lots of chances and we should have capitalized on even more of them, but that’s hockey. Their young goalie (Simon Wood) stood on his head at times tonight.”
Even 24 hours after the Rock’s third period collapse against the Voodoos, Gagne still was not a happy camper.
“The first two periods in Powassan, we played excellent hockey,” he said.
“We had our forecheck going, we were solid defensively and we were patient. We were committed and it was incredible.
“Then, in the third period, the first two shifts, two of our 20 year old defencemen were just nonchalant, taking their time, no desperation and we just stayed flat. They (Powassan) got the momentum.
“Our 20 year olds on the back end just never showed leadership. It doesn’t happen too often, but it did happen Friday night. I was really disappointed.”
Rock goalie Albert Rogers turned aside 25 of the 30 shots he faced to pick up the victory.
Rapids goalie Wood blocked 52 of the 59 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock did not dress forward Maxime Lague (healthy scratch), forward Alexandre Brisson (upper-body injury) and goalie Jeff Veitch (illness) … The three stars of the game were Rendle, Picard and Wood … Both teams went 0-3 on the power play … Official attendance at the Noelville Arena was 262 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Gold Miners stop the Espanola Express 7-2 in Kirkland Lake, the Canadians get past the Blind River Beavers 5-2 in Rayside-Balfour and the Eagles blank the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-0 in the Sault, Mich. … The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.