By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
NOELVILLE – Affiliate goalie Bradley Dobson stopped all 33 shots he faced to lead the Timmins Rock to a 3-0 victory over the French River Rapids Saturday night.
“It feels great,” said Dobson, describing his first victory and first shutout in the NOJHL.
“I was a little bit nervous before the start of the game. I just tried to stay calm.”
Dobson’s weekend started when he backstopped the Great North Midget League’s Timmins Majors to an 8-3 win over the Cubs in New Liskeard Friday night.
“I didn’t know they were going to call me up and then after the game they asked me to come up and this feels awesome,” he said.
Following his GNML game he drove down to meet the Rock in North Bay following the NOJHL squad’s 5-1 loss to the Voodoos in Powassan.
Playing in his first NOJHL game, Dobson made eight saves in the first period and 13 more in the second period to keep Timmins in the game until the Rock offence could get untracked.
“They started coming on in the second period, but our team played good in front of me,” he said.
“We really gave it to them in the third period.”
Dobson noticed a big difference between the calibre of play in the two leagues.
“There was definitely an adjustment going from Midget to Junior ‘A’ hockey,” he said.
“The players shoot harder and they skate faster in this league.”
Dobson hadn’t had an opportunity to play behind the Rock defence before, but he has been practising with them since starting goalie Logan Ferrington went down with a lower-body injury a few weeks ago.
“Everything was fine tonight,” he said.
“We just kept talking and I let them know what was going on. It was good.”
With Ferrington getting healthier day by day, it remains to be seen when Dobson will get his next start between the pipes for the Rock but he is confident he can play in the league.
“For sure,” he said. “I feel I can play in this league for a couple of years. That would be good.”
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was more than pleased with the play of his affiliate goalie.
“Young Dobson played extremely well,” he said.
“He was calm and poised back there, which was nice. He controlled his rebounds really well. He made a couple of key saves in the first couple of periods. They snuck up on us and had a couple of good opportunities and he came up big with the saves.
Defenceman Andrew Castagna finally got the visitors on the scoreboard at 5:03 of the third period when he beat Rapids goalie Alec St. Georges for his second goal of the season, a power-play marker.
Fellow blue-liner Ryan Kerr increased the Rock lead to 2-0 when he scored his first goal of the season just over four minutes later.
Jordan Rendle added his 13th goal of the season with less than five minutes remaining on the clock to close out the scoring.
Gagne was pleased to see the Rock pick up the two points, but he was not totally happy with the squad’s effort.
“The results were great, but we were a little nonchalant tonight,” he said.
“Going into the third period we were playing well, but they were also playing well. We had a couple of opportunities and we didn’t capitalize. Their goalie stood on his head. They had quite a few shots on us.
“Eventually, it was just a matter of time and Castagna scored a nice goal, with a wrist shot, on the power play. Then the momentum just switched right away.”
After pumping 52 shots at Voodoos goalie Garrett Forrest during Friday night’s 5-1 loss in Powassan and not getting any pucks past St. Georges for two periods Saturday night, the Rock were beginning to wonder if they were snake bit.
“We had so many opportunities the night before and we couldn’t capitalize on them,” Gagne said.
“Then tonight it was the same thing in the first and second periods. The kids were sort of squeezing their sticks a little bit too hard. The pressure was on. When you have that mentality you have to score you start squeezing your stick too hard.
“Once Castagna scored it just lifted our morale a little bit.”
It was Gagne’s first opportunity to see the Rapids play in person and he came away impressed.
“They are a well-coached team,” he said.
“They play a really simple game. They forecheck well, they backcheck well and they finish their checks. We weren’t 100% ready for it. We have to bring our A game and we didn’t do that tonight. We brought our B game and they brought their A game. Frustration got a hold of us a bit and the pressure was on, but we persevered and we got our two points.”
Gagne was once again pleased with the play of his third line, as well as his defensive corps.
“Our third line, with (Cole) Gilligan, (Wayne) Mathieu and (Kyle) Levis, was once again solid,” he said.
“And I was impressed with the play of our defensive pairing of (Nick) Hautanen and (Brennan) McGuire, too. They keep things simple and they do their jobs. They move the puck and they are sound defensively. They stand up quite a bit now and they pinch at the right time.”
Dobson made 33 saves while recording the shutout and earning the victory. St. Georges turned aside 33 of the 39 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss.
Even though the Rock did not get the result they were hoping for in Powassan Friday night it was not due to a lack of effort.
“We played incredible hockey,” Gagne said.
“Friday night our compete level was incredible. We made very minimal mistakes.
“We just didn’t capitalize on our chances and we ran into a goaltender in the young Forrest who stood on his head. He stoned us shot after shot. When we had great opportunities he made a save or we missed the net. He really made a difference for them.”
NOJHL NOTES —The Rock went 1-2 on the power play, while the Rapids were 0-4 with the man advantage … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Espanola Express blank the Eskis 1-0 in Iroquois Falls, the Crunch edge the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 6-5 in Cochrane, the Voodoos shut out the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 2-0 in Powassan and the Beavers double the Soo Eagles 6-3 in Blind River … The Rock will travel to Kirkland Lake to take on the Gold Miners Friday night and then visit the Eskis in Iroquois Falls Saturday night.