Rock blank Wildcats for fifth-straight win

ELLIOT LAKE — Tyler Masternak recorded his NOJHL-leading third shutout of the season as the Timmins Rock blanked the Wildcats 1-0 at the Centennial Arena Saturday night.

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It was the fifth-straight win for the Rock who had opened their two-game weekend road trip with a 5-2 win over the Express in Espanola Friday night.

“It was a very impressive performance from our guys,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.

“Obviously, there was good attention to detail in our defensive zone. I thought Elliot Lake came out pretty strong in the first five minutes of the game and we were a little on our heels.

“Then, we settled in and got things going. We managed to get one late and we knew one goal was going to do it either way, so we were very glad to get it.”

The Rock dominated the opening 20 minutes of play Saturday night, outshooting the Wildcats 17-7, but neither squad was able to find the back of the net.

Play was much more even during the middle frame, with the Rock holding a 9-6 edge in shots on goal, but once again the two sides failed to generate any goals.

It was beginning to look like regulation might end in a scoreless tie, but the Rock were finally able to break through with Riley Brousseau netting his third goal of the season at the 13:26 mark of the third period.

That goal would stand up to be the game-winner, as the Rock went on to secure the 1-0 victory.

While there was only the one goal scored during the contest, each team had a number of good scoring opportunities.

“I thought both goalies did a phenomenal job,” Beer said.

“Elliot Lake had some realy high-quality chances among the 18 shots they had and we felt we had some good ones, too, among our 39 shots.

“Both goalies were outstanding in this game. We are happy with don’t have to face (Wildcats goalie Justin) Vertesi again for a while. He is a pretty dam good goalie and he has played well against us.

“We are just happy to get out of here with another two points.”

The Rock faced the Wildcats during the NOJHL Showcase in Sudbury on Wednesday and emerged from that contest with a 3-2 shootout victory.

“We made a couple of tweaks after that game,” Beer said.

“We changed up our neutral zone in terms of transition and defence and how we wanted to forecheck. It was still the same kind of principle and whatnot.  We weren’t looking for tick-tack-toe passes out of our zone. We kept things a little more simple, some glass and outs and hard rims.

“We didn’t feel like we had anyone to impress. It was a road game, go in, do your job and try to steal a win.

“From a schematic standpoint, I thought our guys handled the adjustments really well and we certainly were the beneficiaries of hard work tonight.”

The shutout allowed Masternak to lower his goals against average to 2.44 — sixth best in the NOJHL. In addition, the NOJHL’s busiest goalie now boasts a saves percentage of .903.

Beer was not only pleased with Masternak’s play Saturday night, but also that of the guys in front of him.

“We pride ourselves on our play in the defensive zone,” he said.

“Our defencemen do a great job of boxing out and our forwards come down and help out. We have good attention to detail that way, but there were a couple of saves Masty made in the third period that kind of saved our bacon.

“There was one play where he went post to post and absolutely robbed a guy.

“It’s a two-part thing. You have to have the good team defence, with guys buying in, but you also have to have a very talented goaltender to hold the fort.”

Beer was happy to see Brousseau find the back of the net again in Saturday night’s victory.

“He has been playing good hockey and he plays in all three facets (even strength, power play and on the penalty kill). He got lucky with a nice tip in front.

“It is a reward for a guy who works hard. He has been all around the net the last bunch of games and for him to be rewarded with the game-winner tonight is pretty nice for him.”

The Rock were without captain Derek Seguin (lower-body injury) and defenceman Carson Burlington (upper-body injury) and they lost defenceman Owen Shier (upper-body injury) in the first period of Saturday night’s contest.

“We are a little dinged up, but our guys have some well-deserved days off coming up,” Beer said.

“We will re-evaluate those three guys over the next couple of days.”

While Beer doesn’t have a medical degree, he is cautiously optimistic none of the three injuries will prove to be a long-term issue.

“I don’t believe so, but you never know,” he saud.

With Saturday night’s victory, the Rock (9-4-1-0) were able to close to within two points of the second-place Voodoos (10-2-1-0) in the East Division standings — although Powassan does have a game in hand.

The loss leaves the Wildcats (5-9-0-2) in fourth place in the West Division standings.

Masternak stopped all 18 shots he faced to record his third shutout and seventh victory of the season for the Rock.

Vertesi, who turned aside 38 of the 39 shots Timmins directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Brousseau, Masternak and Wildcats defenceman Mark Parone …The Rock went 0-5 on the power play, while the Wildcats were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Centennial Arena was 289 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Cochrane Crunch defeat the Eagles 4-3 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners triple the Rapids 6-2 in French River and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians edge the Thunderbirds 3-2 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday when they will host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.