Timmins Rock goalie Tyler Masternak makes a point-blank save on a shot from Kirkland Lake Gold Miners forward Noah Benjamin as teammate Eric Paquette looks on during the first period of Wednesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Masternak stopped all 34 shots he faced, as the Rock went on to blank the Gold Miners 1-0 — ending a three-game winless streak. The two teams will resume hostilities Friday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake. The Rock will then return home to host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock blanked the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 1-0 Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena to pull within a single point of the idle Hearst Lumberjacks in the NOJHL East Division standings.
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak blocked all 34 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season.
“It was a big win for the team, obviously,” said the 17 year old who saw his goals against average in a Rock uniform fall to 1.96 and his saves percentage improve to .938.
“I felt really good and comfortable out there tonight and we got the job done.”
It didn’t take long for Masternak to feel he might be in for something special Wednesday night.
“Right off the bat, I was seeing the puck well,” he said.
“Everything was hitting me in the right spots and I just felt great out there.
Masternak gave a lot of the credit for Wednesday’s big win to his teammates.
“The guys did a great job of boxing out in front of our net,” he said.
“That has been what our focus has been the last couple of weeks.”
Wednesday night’s victory snapped a streak of games that had seen the Rock give up a game-winning goal with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation, twice blow four-goal leads before dropping an overtime decision to the NOJHL’s top team and suffer a road loss to an arch rival after collapsing in the second period.
“It was huge for us to get back in the victory column tonight,” Masternak said.
“We have got 13 games left in the regular season now and we have to crack down and put those past three games behind us.”
Masternak’s toughest save was likely his final stop of the night against Gold Miners’ sniper Gregory Trudeau-Paquette, with less than five seconds remaining in regulation.
“He is an elite scorer in this league, but I knew I had to shut him down and it worked out for us in the end,” he said.
The 686 fans in the stands of the McIntyre Arena breathed a collective sigh of relief after that game-saving stop.
Jace Soroko supplied all the offence the Rock would need when he scored his sixth goal of the season at the 14:46 mark of the opening period.
“It was early in the game and I didn’t think it was going to be a 1-0 game,” Soroko said.
“Spinner (Linden Spencer) made a nice play to turn back and get me the puck. I was lucky enough to have a hard-working teammate give me an opportunity to score.
“With this goal being the game-winner, I would agree it is my biggest goal of the season, so far.”
Soroko who has played just about every position for the Rock this season, except goaltender, was back up front Wednesday night.
“It’s a huge change, but I will do whatever the coaches want me to do,” he said.
“The team needed a forward today, so I went out there and tried to do my best. I do the same thing when they need me to play D.”
The 18-year-old Timmins native played on a line with Spencer and Jordan Picard Wednesday night.
Asked if he is No. 3 on the Rock goaltending chart, the Soroko said, with a chuckle: “I think Evan Kentish-Stack would probably be best suited for that role given all the shots he has blocked this season.
Rock coach Corey Beer felt his squad played close to a perfect game Wednesday night.
“It was a phenomenal team game for us,” he said.
“It was night and day compared to our last game (a 5-2 loss to the Crunch in Cochrane). It definitely feels good when you can put out four lines and six D and Tyler Masternak was unbelievable for us tonight.”
While the Rock excelled at all aspects of the game Wednesday night, they ability to kill of penalties was a key factor in the victory.
“We put a lot of emphasis into it, but you need a little bit of luck, too,” Beer said.
“We have a group of penalty killers who do a phenomenal job, matched up against the other team’s top lines normally. They block shots and sacrifice their bodies.
“You don’t win in the long run without good special teams. Our guys on the PK were huge for us tonight.”
Even though the two sides combined for 73 shots, Beer was not surprised to see the final score read 1-0.
“There were a lot of perimeter shots for both teams,” he said.
“There were not too many in the red zone for either team. Both teams played good defence tonight and it was a matter of trying to force some shots through.
“I thought our guys did a great job of puck management most of the night and it certainly paid off with a big win.”
The Rock managed, for the most part, to avoid extended periods of being pinned in their own zone Wednesday night.
“You want to be a team that can score on the fly, but when you get into the playoffs, you need to be able to play heavy hockey,” Beer said.
“You have to be able to manage pucks down low and play net cycle. If you can make your opponent have to go 200 feet to score goals, No. 1 you are going to tire them out and it is going to be a recipe for success because your backcheck is going to be there to help out.
“I thought our guys were phenomenal at that all night.”
This is just the second time since the franchise relocated to Timmins and became the Rock that they have managed to record two shutouts in the same season.
Logan Ferrington and affiliate goalie Bradley Dobson each had one in the 2015-16 season, while Jean-Philippe Fectueau was the last individual goalie to record a pair in one season, 2011-12, when the team was still known as the Eskimos and playing in Iroquois Falls.
“Early on, it was the opposite,” Beer said.
“We were handing out shutouts to everybody else, but both our goaltenders (Masternak and Eric Jackson) have been terrific this year.
“I think it is also our commitment to team defence and doing all the small things. We are tight on defensive zone coverage and we pound it at them in practice on Tuesday.”
While Beer was happy with the effort put forth by all his Rock players Wednesday night, he opted to single out a few for a little extra praise.
“Grant McClellan was unbelievable on defence, as were Will Caston and Jared Hester,” he said.
“Those three guys were horses on the back end tonight. They were incredible.
“Up front, the C.J. Bradburn, Evan Kentish-Stack, Paul Spadafora line gave us great minutes.
“Spencer, Soroko, who played defence last game, and Picard were awesome.
“It was good to see Derek Seguin and Tyler Gilberds give us better games tonight, too.”
Gold Miners coach Ryan Wood was pleased with the effort put forth by his squad Wednesday night, especially considering they were missing a number of key players — including No. 1 goalie Ryan Winter (upper-body injury) and captain Marshal Nikitin (illness).
“It was a tight-checking, back-and-fourth game,” he said.
“Both goalies played really well. Unfortunately, their goalie played better.
“I wasn’t too terribly disappointed with our effort. I thought we had a slow start in the first period, when we had some bus legs, or whatever you want to call it, but I thought in the second and third periods, we worked, competed and got pucks to the net.
“We did all the good things you need to do to be successful, but unfortunately we ran into a hot goaltender.”
Wood was pleased with the effort put forth by a number of Gold Miners Wednesday night.
“I really thought Joe Whittet had a good flow of shifts,” he said.
“When he got his feet moving, he got involved. Offensively, Sam Ellwood has been playing good and I thought Trudeau-Paquette showed some flashes and made some amazing plays. He set up (Tyler) Fyfe for numerous chances, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to capitalize.
“We had some wide-open nets and you have to be able to score on those plays to win hockey games. Unfortunately, we didn’t”
In addition to picking up his second shutout on the season, Masternak earned his sixth win on the season and fourth in a Rock uniform.
Gold Miners goalie Cade McEwen stopped 38 of the 39 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Masternak, Soroko and McEwen … The Rock did not dress forwards Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury), Wayne Mathieu (lower-body injury) and Riley Robitaille (serving the third game of a five-game suspension … With Winter out of action, the Gold Miners dressed Kapuskasing Flyer Sebastien Plamondon, a Timmins native, to back up McEwen … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 686 … The Rock and the Gold Miners will renew hostilities Friday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake. The next home game for the Rock will be on Saturday when they welcome the Powassan Voodoos to the McIntyre Arena. The Rock will wear their new Timmins Golden Bears third jerseys in that contest to celebrate the franchise’s heritage. Game time is set for 7 p.m.