By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock rolled to their sixth-straight victory and crushed the Iroquois Falls Eskis 10-2 in the process Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena.
The Rock’s top two lines feasted on Eskis’ goaltending, with Jordan Rendle and Tristan Salesse each netting a hat-trick.
Zachary Kercz added a pair of goals for the winners, with Devin Panzeca and defenceman Andrew Castagna also finding the back of the net.
The Eskis got goals from Jacob Erwin and David Osborne.
“Everything was going well tonight,” Rendle said.
“We had a strong start and that’s pretty big. We have been looking for that lately, coming out for the first few shifts.
“All four of our lines played pretty solid, stuck to their roles and did their jobs.”
Playing on a line with Panzeca and Bain Cunningham, who had three assists, Rendle was in the right place at the right time Wednesday night.
“I definitely wouldn’t have been able to score them without my linemates tonight, especially (Bain) Cunningham,” he said.
“He was feeding me the puck all over the place. The first goal I came off the wall and looked for a shot on net and I ended up banging it home. The second one was a rebound on the power play and it was the same thing. I was just looking to get the puck to the net and keep things simple.
“The third one, I really wasn’t out there looking for a third goal. I was just trying to keep the puck moving with my linemates and Bain found me again and I ended up sneaking it by the goalie.”
Castagna’s first goal of the season, a power-play marker, staked the home side to a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the first period.
Erwin beat Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his eighth goal of the season 10 minutes late to tie things up at 1-1.
Rendle’s first goal of the game and seventh on the season restored the Rock’s one-goal lead just 29 seconds later.
Panzeca appeared to take a lot of the wind out of the Eskis’ sails when he netted his 10th goal of the season with just 28.80 seconds remaining in the opening frame to put the home side in front 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
That spelled the end of the night for Eskis’ goalie Joe Hacker, making his first start in the NOJHL.
Dan Davies came on in relief to start the second period for Iroquois Falls, but it didn’t make much difference.
Salesse scored his first goal of the game and 11th of the season less than two minutes into the second period to extend the Rock lead to 4-1.
Power-play goals by Kercz, his first of the night and 11th of the season, and Rendle, his second of the night and eighth of the season, less than two minutes apart put the Rock in front 6-1.
Salesse added his second of the night and 12th on the season just over a minute later and the Rock exited the second period with a 7-1 lead.
Rendle completed his hat-trick when he netted his ninth goal of the season, a short-handed marker 2:13 into the final period to increase the Rock advantage to 8-1.
Osborne scored his ninth goal of the season midway through the period when he beat Nixon on an Eskis power-play.
Salesse completed his hat-trick when he netted his 13th goal of the season four minutes later.
Kercz then closed out the scoring when he deflected a Jared Hester pass past Davis for his 12th goal of the season on the power play with 1:20 remaining on the clock.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was happy to see his squad put up another W in the win column.
“We won every period and that is kind of what we wanted to do,” he said.
“Even the last period, we were up by six going into the third, and we still wanted to stick to our game plan. We didn’t want to develop any bad habits or do any stuff that we normally wouldn’t do.
“We know that Powassan is going to be rolling into town on Saturday and we wanted to keep our momentum going for that game.”
Special teams were definitely a factor in Wednesday night’s game, with both the power play and penalty kill working well for the Rock.
“Our power play hasn’t been bad since the start of the year, but we weren’t happy with it,” Daschuk said.
“We had been getting lots of shots, but not the results. In the last couple of games our PP has definitely been coming around. The guys have been gelling a little more. It is something we have been working on in practice and obviously it has been helping.”
The assistant coach was pleased with the effort put forth by all four Rock lines during Wednesday night’s game.
“We play out third line against the other team’s top line a lot and that kind of opens things up for our first two lines to bury the puck.”
The line of Wayne Mathieu, Tyler Romain and Cole Gilligan generated a solid scoring chance late in the third period and the coaching staff rewarded them by letting them stay out on the power play.
“Those guys have been working hard,” Daschuk said.
“They aren’t painted on the scoresheet by any means but they do their job. The guys inside our dressing room know what they do right.
“Those guys are a huge part of our team. They contribute every night. Gilly has been playing some good hockey and Matty is Matty. He is there every game and Romain played really well tonight, too. He used his speed a lot and had a few good chances.”
Nixon turned aside 36 of the 38 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Rock.
“Nix was good,” Daschuk said.
“Our goalies have been steady all season and that’s huge. It gives us confidence.
“We didn’t like to see the 20 shots we had given up after the first period. We thought that was a little too many, but Nix was good. He made the saves when he had to and he made it look easy. He was in good position.”
Hacker made 10 saves during the first period and was tagged with the loss for the Eskis.
Davies blocked 26 of the 33 shots the Rock fired his way during the final two periods.
What’s going to be the key for the Rock to extend their winning streak to seven games when the Voodoos visit the McIntyre Arena Saturday night?
“We can’t just be running on emotion in front of what we hope is going to be a big crowd,” Daschuk said.
“We have to play with our heads, too, and stick to our game plan. That is how we have been successful.”
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock went 4-5 on the power play, while the Eski were 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 302, which was not bad considering the driving rain storm outside the McIntyre Arena and the freezing rain warning issued by Environment Canada Wednesday afternoon … The Rock will host the undefeated Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night … The Eskis will host the Cochrane Crunch at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls Saturday night and then the Voodoos Sunday afternoon.