Rock blank Crunch

Commitment to defence has Timmins within 2 points of first place

Andrew Autio
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The first meeting of the season between the Timmins Rock and the Cochrane Crunch was a gritty game and a frustrating evening for the visitors.

With an impressive Tuesday crowd of 885 in attendance, the Rock battled through some tight checking in the first few minutes before getting on the board.

Defenceman Phil Caron lugged the puck from his own end to the other before dishing it off to Tyler Schwindt, who then made a nice backhanded pass to Aidan Milne, who snuck in from the point and snapped a quick low wrist shot from the slot passed Crunch goalie Zach Wickson to give Timmins a 1-0 lead. It was the rookie defenceman’s second goal of the season.

Later in the period, Josh Dickson sniped his 15th goal of the season on a powerplay to double the lead. It set a new career high for Dickson, who scored 14 times last season.

Veteran winger Riley Robitaille fired up the crowd, as he dropped the gloves with Cochrane defenceman Jaden Wake late in the opening frame. Robitaille, who was bloodied by an unpenalized Wake high-stick earlier in the period, was sent to the showers as current NOJHL rules dictate a game misconduct for any fighting majors.

Karter Renouf scored for the fourth-consecutive game, as he poked in a rebound midway through the second period to put the Rock up 3-0.

Derek Seguin rounded out the scoring by finishing off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play from Owen Shier and Dickson on a powerplay late in the third. Seguin now has 16 goals on the season. Timmins won the game 4-0, and have now won four games in a row.

A smothering defensive effort by the Rock held Cochrane to just nine shots in the final two periods. Although they did have a couple of breakaway opportunities, the Crunch were unable to capitalize.

Final shots favoured Timmins 40 to 16. Tyler Masternak picked up the win, and his fourth shutout of the season, which ties him with teammate Vance Meyer for the NOJHL lead. Masternak set the NOJHL all-time record for shutouts in a season last year with six.

“I think as time went on in the game, we really did a good job of building up our shot clock and doing a good job in the offensive zone, our activation was good. It was nice to see guys get rewarded in the right places,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.

Timmins has only allowed 43 goals against in 26 games this season – by far the fewest in the league, and have the best goal differential at plus-68.

“I think it’s the puck possession to be quite honest. More than just good defending, it’s hanging onto the puck and making smart plays with it, and dragging things out in the offensive zone and doing things that way,” said Beer.

“What else can you say about Ty Masternak in net? Another shutout for him. This team is playing really good defence, I think it’s one goal against in the last four games, so pretty good.”

Timmins Rock winger Riley Robitaille engages in a fight with Cochrane Crunch defenceman Jaden Wake in the first period of Tuesday night’s 4-0 Rock win.
ANDREW AUTIO/For The Daily Press

The Rock are now just two points behind the first place Powassan Voodoos for the East Division and NOJHL overall lead. The teams will next meet at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, Dec. 6.

As the old saying goes “defence wins championships” and the veteran core of the Rock have been setting the tone for defensive responsibility all season long.

“We practise hard. We work on the ‘D-zone’ all the time, basically every day. Everyone just buys in. Nobody is selfish in the defensive zone. We just make sure we get the puck out first before thinking about scoring goals,” said forward Stewart Parnell.

“Our forwards are doing a great job of coming back, and really helping us D out. That translates right into helping Masty out too. Just a full team effort of playing solid defence,” said defenceman Josh Anderson.

For Anderson, Tuesday night marked his 100th NOJHL regular season game, all with the Rock.

“It snuck up on me. I wasn’t really paying attention to how many I’d played, then I saw a tweet about it this morning. It was pretty special,” he said.

Robitaille said he was feeling especially inspired for Tuesday’s game.

“We wanted to come out hard against these guys, being the first time playing them. We wanted it to be a statement game, to show them how its going to be for the rest of the season. I think we did our job and made it tough on them. We’ll see if it carries through the season,” he said post-game.

Regarding his fight, he summarized it succinctly.

“It ended up going good. I didn’t lose any teeth, so I’m sure my mom and family are happy about that.”

The Rock are off until Friday when they visit the Hearst Lumberjacks as part of a weekend home-and-home with their northern rivals. The Lumberjacks will visit the McIntyre Arena on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.