SUDBURY — The Timmins Rock wrapped up the NOJHL Showcase with a 3-2 shootout win over the Elliot Lake Wildcats at the Countryside Sports Complex Wednesday afternoon.
Combined with Tuesday’s 6-2 win over the Blind River Beavers, it allowed the Rock to collect four of a possible four points during the two-day tournament that saw results count toward the regular-season standings.
As a result, the Rock (7-4-1-0) have moved into third place in the East Division standings — four points behind the second-place Powassan Voodoos (9-1-1-0) and two points ahead of the fourth-place Hearst Lumberjacks (6-5-1-0).
As one might expect, Rock coach Corey Beer is thrilled with all of those developments.
“It is a little bit different than last year, going home 2-0-0-0 instead of 0-2-0-0,” he said.
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Mahingan Decontie’s second goal of the season at the 4:48 mark of the opening period.
Eric Conley’s third goal of the season just past the midway point of the frame got the Wildcats back on even terms, however.
The game remained deadlocked at 1-1 until late in the second period when the Wildcats got the go ahead goal off the stick of Evan Della Paolera. It was his fourth tally of the season.
The Rock were able to get the equalizer early in the third period when Riley Robitaille netted a power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season.
A five-minute three-on-three overtime period failed to decide anything, leaving the shootout to determine the winner of the contest.
Wildcats goalie Justin Vertesi stopped the first Rock shooter, Josh Dickson, and his counterpart, Nicholas Dicks, denied Conley.
Rock captain Derek Seguin then beat Vertesi and Dicks turned aside a Connor Taylor attempt.
The next Rock shooter, Decontie, was stopped by Vertesi and Dicks then stood tall on the Wildcats final shot, off the stick of Josh Bifolchi, to seal the deal for Timmins.
Dicks has now stopped all six shootout attempts he has faced in a pair of Rock victories.
Beer once again was pleased by the effort put forth by the Rock during Wednesday’s victory.
“Early on today I thought we had lots of good pressure and lots of good chances,” he said.
“We just couldn’t get that second or third goal to put it away early.
“Elliot Lake is a team that keeps forechecking pretty hard and they were pretty opportunistic.
“Then, we felt we had some good opportunities down the stretch, but their goalie (Vertesi) was full marks. He was outstanding.”
With their two victories at the NOJHL Showcase, the Rock have now won three-straight games.
“The quality of play has been impressive,” Beer said.
“We are not just sneaking by with wins. We are trying to be dominant in our approach and our game plan.
“Obviously, Tuesday was a tremendous win, getting out early and sitting on that lead.
“Today was more of a scrappy, try to claw your way back into the game type of thing. Obviously, our forecheck was great both days.
“It is important for our guys to understand there are no easy games. They have to play a full 60 minutes to finish things off.”
The line of Seguin, Robitaille and 16-year-old Keegan McMullen was once again front and centre in this Rock victory.
“That line is arguable in my mind one of the top lines in this league,” Beer said.
“They were incredible and they do it from both ends. They are a line that gets a lot of defensive zone starts and responsibilities in our end.
“The way they hunt the puck and forecheck is pretty damn tenacious, as well. It is impressive for the rest of the team to kind of sit and watch these guys lead by example.
“They are two 18 year olds and a 16 year old and I think we are only starting to see the best of what’s to come for those three.”
Dicks got the start in the Rock net Wednesday after Tyler Masternak had been in the crease for the first two wins of the current streak.
“Being a showcase, you want to give everyone the chance to play in these games,” Beer said.
“It was an opportunity for Nick to get in and get another win under his belt. He was very good in the shootout again.
“There are going to be stretches where he doesn’t get in for a couple of games and Tyler Masternak is going to be the guy we run with.
“It is very important for a backup goaltender, or a guy who is a 1B, to capitalize on wins when he is in there.
“More than his statistical numbers, I think wins are so important for a backup goalie.”
Once again, the blue-line corps turned in a solid effort, with the help of the team’s backchecking forwards — limiting the Wildcats to just 17 shots in 65 minutes of hockey.
“It was not just sitting back and trapping it up,” Beer said.
“It was also our forecheck and our back pressure, being good on our defensive zone exits.
“We talk about team defence so much. If you are on the right side of your man and the puck, you are going to get your offensive opportunities. If you are a team that cheats and you are on the wrong side of the puck looking for stretch passes, more times than not, they don’t transpire.
“For us, our guys are buying a good, overall team concept and it is paying dividends.
“We are getting good offensive opportunities and holding teams to minimal shot attempts. When they do get shots, they are mostly from the outside.
“We try and make it pretty easy on our goaltenders back there and support them as much as we can with the five guys in front of them.”
Like the Beavers, the Wildcats play in the West Division so the Rock only play them a couple of times each season.
“They are a typical (Wildcats coach and general manager) Corey Bricknell team,” Beer said.
“They are hard working, relentless on the forecheck and physical. Their backcheck today caused us a lot of problems.
“We are a team that likes to be creative on our offensive zone entries and their backchecking kind of stifled a lot of those chances. We had to change our game plan a little bit and try to play heavy down low.”
Dicks, who turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, picked up his second win a Rock uniform.
Vertesi, who stopped 30 of the 32 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the shootout loss.
NOJHL NOTES — Dicks was named the player of the game for the Rock, while Vertesi was honoured for the Wildcats … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Wildcats were 0-3 with the man advantage … Wednesday’s other action saw the Soo Thunderbirds edge the Crunch 4-3 in a shootout, the Soo Eagles fly past the Hearst Lumberjacks 3-2 in overtime, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians knock off the Powassan Voodoos 3-2, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners dump the Beavers 4-1 and the French River Rapids top the Espanola Express 5-2 …The Rock will travel to Espanola for a game against the Express Friday night and then to Elliot Lake for a contest against the Wildcats Saturday night. The next home game for the Rock will be on Wednesday, Oct. 17 when they will entertain the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena.
Photos by Chris Dawson