Rock clinch top spot in East

The Timmins Rock clinched top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings Saturday night without firing a shot, delivering a hit, or making a save.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Having finished their 2021-22 regular-season schedule on March 27, the Rock (33-8-5-2) had to sit and await the outcome of the Hearst Lumberjacks (35-11-2-0) three-game trip through the West Division, hoping their three-point lead would hold up.

Things were looking good after the Lumberjacks 2-1 regulation loss to the Soo Thunderbirds Thursday night, but a 4-0 win over the Blind River Beavers in Espanola Friday night reduced the lead to a single point.

Still, since the Rock held the tie breaker (goals for and against during the eight-game head-to-head series, which saw each team win four times) all that was required for them to hold onto top spot was a Lumberjacks loss — regulation, overtime or shootout — to the Soo Eagles Saturday night.

And the Eagles rallied from a 3-2 third-period deficit, to deliver a 5-4 regulation victory over the Lumberjacks, securing the regular-season East Division title for the Rock — and the second-best record in the NOJHL behind the West Division-champion Thunderbirds (38-5-2-3).

Seth Ferguson scored a pair of third-period goals, including the game-winner with 2:27 remaining in regulation to power the attack for the Eagles.

Brian Fiddes, Trevor Davis and Chase Tallaire — with a shorthanded effort — also scored for the Eagles.

Robbie Rutledge paced the attack for the Lumberjacks, netting his NOJHL-leading 38th and 39th goals of the season.

Riley Klugerman added his 12th goal of the season, while Mathieu Comeau chipped in with his 19th goal of the season.

Gabe Rosek went the distance in net for the Eagles, stopping 46 of the 50 shots he faced, to earn the win.

Lumberjacks goalie Matteo Gennero, who blocked 34 of the 39 shots directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

The Rock will host either the fourth-place French River Rapids (23-24-1-0) or the fifth-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (12-33-03) after the conclusion of their best-of-three play-in series.

The East Division’s other semifinal series will see the second-place Lumberjacks take on the third-place Powassan Voodoos (30-11-6-1).