VIDEO / GALLERY: Riley earns first NOHL shutout, as Rock blank Gold Miners

Dryden Riley stopped all 25 shots he faced to backstop the Timmins Rock to a 6-0 win over the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Sunday afternoon.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Photos: Allyson Demers

Combined with Friday night’s 5-4 win over the Espanola Paper Kings, it leaves the Rock (20-9-2-0) six points up on the Powassan Voodoos (18-11-0-2) in the battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.

Meanwhile, the loss leaves the Gold Miners (7-20-3-1) one point up on both the Iroquois Falls Storm (8-24-0-1) and the French River Rapids (8-24-1-0) in the battle for the division’s final playoff spot.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was once again pleased with the effort he saw from his squad.

“It was a good one, start to finish, the guys played a real solid game,” he said.

“Like always, we were just worried about our game, making sure we were doing the things well that make us successful, as a team. I thought we did that from start to finish. We got down into their zone really quickly and some good, heavy shifts in the O Zone, forced them to take penalties, then capitalized on the power play.

“Everyone did their jobs and Dryden Riley was solid between the pipes.”

Jack Kelly’s first goal in a Rock uniform, 4:37 into the opening period, stood up to be the game-winner Sunday afternoon.

It was the second game in a Rock uniform for Kelly who picked up an assist during his debut against the Paper Kings Friday night.

Three second-period goals, including a pair of power-play markers, allowed the Rock to take control of the contest.

Ryan Armitage started things off when he scored his fifth goal of the season 3:13 into the frame.

Lucas Lowe, who has now scored in four-straight contests, then added the first of the two man advantage goals, his seventh tally of the campaign.

Mason Svarich’s team-leading 20th goal of the season, also a power-play marker, then put the Rock in front 4-0 heading into the second intermission.

Henry McLellan’s first goal of the season, 12-and-a-half minutes into the third period added to the Rock advantage.

And Brant Romaniuk’s power-play tally, his sixth goal of the season, two-and-a-half minutes later closed out the scoring.

The only thing that remained in doubt at that point was whether or not Riley would earn his first career NOJHL shutout and his teammates ensured he would not be denied.

Perry was especially pleased to see Riley, his 16-year-old goalie, get rewarded with a shutout after coming close three times earlier in the season.

“It is important characteristics of any team that’s successful, finding reasons and today it was Dryds,” he said.

“After the second period, we said lets commit to playing 20 hard here in front of Dryds. Let’s do it for him and I really liked that out of our group. It was very unselfish. Sure, guys could have tried to cheat for offence and tried to score more goals but they committed to playing good defence in front of Dryds and got the shutout for him. I am super happy for him.”

The coach also liked what he saw from Kelly in his first two games in a Rock uniform.

“He is fitting in really nice, obviously he is a smart player,” Perry said.

“We have five guys from his old Okanogan team that (former Rock coach) Corey Beer coaches. So, when you come into the dressing room and you know five or six guys it makes it easier to fit in right away.

“He is a big, skilled power forward and he is doing exactly what we need him to do.”

Svarich, who now has 20 goals in his first 20 games in a Rock uniform, also caught his coach’s eye in both weekend games.

“He is a model of consistency,” Perry said.

“He has just been great, he is a pleasure to coach. He always wants to get better and he is always on the ice. If we have a day off after a weekend, with an optional skate, he is there. We have goalie sessions Tuesday and Thursday mornings, he is there.

“It is no surprise he has 20 goals in 20 games. He has a great shot and great instincts.”

The coach was pleased to see McLellan score his first NOJHL goal Sunday afternoon, as well.

“I couldn’t be more happy for that kid,” Perry said.

“He is a player who is in and out of the lineup and it is not easy to sit out but he shows up every single day and works as hard as he can. He never complains or feels sorry for himself.

“It was so deserving for him to get rewarded tonight, especially with his dad in the stands. It was a special moment for him and I am super proud of him.”

As one might expect, there was no shortage of Rock players who were deserving of a little extra praise following the weekend victories.

“I thought everybody was good,” Perry said.

“Off the top of my head, Lucas Lowe has been outstanding the last four or five games. He has just been an absolute Rock star. He has been making good, smart reads and finding the back of the net, which I think is a byproduct of him doing things hard.

“He, Hayden Rynard and Thomas Beard has been our best line, as of late. They have been absolutely outstanding.

“Our top guys were good, as always, and our D corps was really good today.”

Two of the Rock’s top guys, forward Harry Clark (illness) and Liam Wells (lower-body injury), were out of the lineup Sunday afternoon.

Perry termed Wells’ absence as day-to-day, at this point.

On a more positive note, blue-liner Sam Gallagher returned to the lineup after recovering from an upper-body injury.

In addition to picking up his first shutout, Riley’s 25-save performance allowed him to register his 10th win of the season.

Gold Miners goalie Graydon Mole, who turned aside 40 of the 46 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game Sunday were Riley, Kelly and Svarich … The Rock went 3-9 on the power play Sunday, while the Gold Miners were 0-3 with the man advantage … Rock blue-liner Elijah Pool, who was ejected from Friday’s game after being assessed a five-minute major penalty for slew-footing, served the first game of his five-game suspension on Sunday … Official attendance at Joe Mavrinac Community Complex on Sunday was 198 … Sunday’s only other contest saw the Thunderbirds edge the Elliot Lake Vikings 4-3 in a shootout in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action on Friday when they host the Iroquois Falls Storm at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel