By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
IROQUOIS FALLS – The Eskis struggles against the Timmins Rock continued Friday night at the Jus Jordan Arena, as the visitors played a near flawless game en route to an 8-1 victory.
It was the fourth win in four tries for the Rock against the Eskimos and the second by a one-sided margin at the Jus Jordan Arena.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was pleased with all aspects of his squad’s game Friday night.
“Right from the first shift, I thought we were in control and dominated the game,” he said.
“Our third line really seemed to set the tone right off the hop. It was great.
“We knew coming in that the Eskis are a team that battles hard and works hard against us every single time we play them, so we knew we couldn’t let up, 1-0 wasn’t enough , 2-0 wasn’t enough, 3-0, 4-0, we knew that wasn’t enough.
“The talk between periods was that we had to keep going.”
The Rock jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead and never looked back.
Defenceman Spencer Segui got the puck rolling when he scored his third goal of the season at the 4:45 mark of the opening frame.
Tyler Romain increased the lead to 2-0 just under 10 minutes later when he scored his first of two goals on the night and 11th of the season. That goal would prove to be the game-winner.
Cory Sprague closed out the first-period scoring four minutes later when he beat Eskis goalie Trevor Hawkes for his ninth goal of the season, with the Rock on the power-play.
The Eskis appeared to settle down in the second period, hold the Rock to just one goal — Alexandre Brisson’s first of two on the night and seventh on the season.
Even with the improved play, the home side trailed by four goals heading into the game’s final 20 minutes.
That deficit quickly increased to five goals, when Romain netted a power-play marker 3:03 into the third period, his 12th goal on the season.
Cole Gilligan then scored his sixth goal of the season just over a minute later to make it a 6-0 hockey game.
Eskis’ fans finally got something the cheer about at the 7:30 mark of the frame when Shadow Rueben drilled a wrist shot into the Rock net to spoil the shutout bid of Matthew Nixon.
Any momentum the Eskis may have gained from that goal was quickly dissipated, however, as the home side took and penalty and the Rock quickly capitalized on the opportunity.
Defenceman James Watier beat Hawkes for a power-play marker, his first goal in a Rock uniform, just shy of the midway point of the period.
“I got a nice pass from Wayne (Mathieu) from the top of the circle and I just kind of fired it,” Watier said, who also picked up a pair of assists in the contest.
“It went off the goalie and in. It definitely feels good to be able to contribute. We played a good team game tonight and everyone chipped in. It felt good to be a part of that.”
Friday’s contest was the fourth game in a Rock uniform for the Ashburn, VA., native.
“The more games I play, the more comfortable I am feeling out there,” Watier said.
Watier played part of the contest with fellow newcomer Patrick Gazich, who had a pair of assists, and the rest with veteran blue-liner Nicholas Hautanen.
“They are both good defencemen,” he said.
That goal clearly took what fight was left out of the Eskis as they abandoned Hawkes to wave after wave of Rock attackers.
He stopped multiple two-on-none opportunities in the final five minutes of the contest before finally being beaten by Brisson for his second of the night and eighth on the season with just 21 seconds remaining on the clock.
All four lines were rolling effectively for the Rock Friday night, a point that didn’t get past Daschuk.
“You couldn’t find anyone in our room who didn’t play their heart out tonight,” he said.
“Everyone was 100% dialed into our program tonight. It was fun to watch.
“We scored three goals on the power play tonight and our first line is our first line. Our second line played like it is supposed to play and our third line worked their butts off every single shift. Even our fourth line had a couple of chances.
“That’s what successful hockey clubs have, scoring from everywhere. Even our D chipped in. Watier had three points tonight.”
One of the keys for the Rock Friday night was that they played a disciplined hockey game and avoided any stupid penalties.
“We have known since the start of the year that penalties have been hurting us,” Daschuk said.
“That hasn’t been a secret. We have talked about it and talked about it. It has been in the press and I guess our players are starting to realize we are a much better team on the power play than we are on the PK.
“We had a couple-goal lead tonight and guys were smart enough to swallow their pride and skate away. It was great to see.”
Discipline, or a lack of it, was clearly an issue for the Eskis, as they gave the Rock too many power-play opportunities, leaving coach and assistant general manager Jamy Bernier shaking his head.
“We just couldn’t stay out of the box,” he said.
“We talked about it in the dressing room and how relentless the Rock power play is, with great numbers. We knew we couldn’t take penalties, but we did it anyways.
“Our lack of discipline really cost us. Special teams just killed us tonight.”
The coach was not happy with how his team left their goaltender out to dry time after time Friday night.
“We didn’t offer much help to our goaltender tonight, that’s for sure,” Bernier said.
“Hawkes stayed in there strong for us tonight. He gave us 60 minutes. To have your goalie give up eight goals when he has put out that kind of effort is definitely something you don’t like to watch.
“Nothing else comes out of this hockey game than he numbers being ruined and unfairly.”
Friday night’s loss falls almost one month exactly since the Rock handed the Eskis an 8-2 defeat at the Jus Jordan Arena.
“They did this exact same thing to us and we regrouped and came back with a very strong month of October,” Bernier said.
“Let’s just hope this produces the same kind of result. This was a deflating loss for us as a coaching staff and our fans, as well. They came out strong for us tonight, something we had been hoping for, and we just flat out disappoint them. That is not something we want to see.”
One of the few other Eskis who stood out during Friday night’s contest was defenceman Vasily Gogolev.
“If there was one guy on the back end who took charge for us tonight, it was him,” Bernier said.
“He has really come a long way and he is putting in a lot of extra effort and it is paying off.”
Gogalev, a native of Moscow, missed all but one game of the 2015-16 campaign, but has started off strongly this season.
“His season was limited to three shifts,” Bernier said.
“He had a goal on one shift and then he re-broke his collarbone.”
Nixon turned aside 32 of the 33 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Rock.
Hawkes blocked 46 of the 54 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the contest were Watier, Brisson and Romain … The Rock went 3-10 on the power-play, while the Eskis were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Jus Jordan Arena was 432 … Friday night’s other NOJHL games saw the Crunch derail the Espanola Express 5-3 in Cochrane, the Gold Miners edge the Soo Eagles 2-1 in Kirkland Lake and Wildcats top the French River Rapids 7-1 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action Saturday night when they welcome the Express to the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. … The Eskis will travel up Highway 11 to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.