By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
SUDBURY – The Timmins Rock overcame a three-goal deficit to double the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 6-3 at the Chelmsford Arena Saturday night.
It’s the fourth win in the past six games for the Rock who will continue their two-game road trip against the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Sunday night.
The host Canadians jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead and appeared to have the game well in hand.
Matthew Neault’s 12th goal of the season got the home side on the scoresheet first 7:17 into the opening frame.
Danny Lepage added his 15th goal of the season just under six minutes later to double the lead and then Logan Lefebvre netted his third goal of the season, a short-handed marker, with less than two minutes remaining in the frame to increase the lead to three goals.
“We knew we were going to by rusty after the Christmas break,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“Our timing wasn’t there in the first period, but our effort was there. We committed seven turnovers at the offensive blue-line, right at the blue-line, and I would say another minimum of four just over their blue-line.
“We were chasing the puck all the time and trying to back check. We weren’t working the puck in deep. We weren’t working the puck in behind the net. We weren’t getting our shots on the net and pouncing on the rebounds three or four feet in front of their net.
“We weren’t doing any of that.
“We made three individual mistakes and they cost us those three goals.”
The Rock stormed back in the second period to score six-straight goals — including two on the power play — to stun the 297 fans in attendance, however.
“We talked about it (during the first intermission),” Gagne said.
“We said: ‘Let’s try not to make those mistakes. Let’s start doing our jobs. Let’s get the puck in deep.’
“Then in the second period we scored six goals (in a span of just over eight minutes) and got a couple of power-play goals in there.
“The turnovers that had been occurring in the first period were made at the same blue-line (now the Canadians’ offensive blue-line) … by them.”
It was almost like the two teams had switched uniforms during the intermission.
“The next thing you know, we started to compete and we were working the puck in deep and we scored three of our goals off of their turnovers,” Gagne said.
“When they started making turnovers, we were on the right side of the puck. All we had to do was drive to the net. We made things happen and all of a sudden they started to take penalties because we had puck possession.
Aaron Kerr’s fourth goal of the season and first of three on the night got the puck rolling for the visitors at the 7:51 mark.
“Aaron certainly, certainly was above the rest last night,” Gagne said.
“That’s the Aaron Kerr we know. He was committed and his back checking was incredible. He made a couple of plays back checking that were awesome. With his speed, he can do it.
“He had one highlight-reel goal. I think it was our third or fourth goal. It came off a turnover in the neutral zone. He went through both defencemen with speed. It was just incredible.
“That was the turning point of the game, when he scored that big goal.
“He was unbelievable last (Saturday) night. He had great opportunities and he could have scored another two or three goals.
“He played with (Ryan) Theriault and (Devin) Panzeca and they were in sync, which was nice.”
Jordan Rendle’s 21st goal of the season, a power-play marker, pulled the Rock to within one goal less than two minutes later.
Kerr then potted his fifth goal of the season to tie things up at the 11:07 mark and netted his six goal of the season 1:19 later to put the visitors in front 4-3.
Bain Cunningham then scored his 18th goal of the season 27 seconds later to provide the Rock with a little insurance.
Canadians starting goalie MacKenzie Savard’s night came to an end following Cunningham’s goal, as he was lifted in favour of Jessie Morin.
“Cunningham was not at his best in the first period,” Gagne said.
“He was just like the rest of us, let’s put it that way, but in the second period he got a little bit of life with two nice goals. One was from a turnover in the neutral zone and he cut between their defencemen. It was a highlight-reel goal, basically.
“He got his second one from in front of the net on a good little deflection.”
Cunningham’s second goal of the game and 19th on the season, a power-play marker, then closed out the scoring in the eventful middle period and put the Rock in front 6-3.
The speed with which the Rock put up their three goals was a key factor, as well.
“It was momentum,” Gagne said.
“Once we got the momentum going we really wanted to keep it going and thank God we did. They pulled their goalie, but I didn’t think he was all that bad. He kept them in there during the first period. We had three really good chances and he made three really big saves.”
Neither team could find the back of the net in the third period.
“In the third period, they outshot us but the shots were coming from far away or from the outside,” Gagne said.
“I felt we played great defence in the third period.”
The Rock lost starting goalie Logan Ferrington 24 seconds into the final frame and Devon Debastos had to come on and finish up the contest.
“One of their players was driving to the net and he ran into Logan,” Gagne said.
“He suffered an upper-body injury and he was pretty stiff. We had a hard time walking and we had to carry him off the ice.”
It is not know yet how long Ferrington will be out of the lineup, but Matthew Nixon will get the start against the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Sunday night as the Rock wrap-up their three game road trip.
“Debastos came to play the third period last (Saturday) night and he played really well,” Gagne said.
“He faced 13 shots, but most of them were not dangerous, but there is one save he made that I thought the puck was going in. He just got a piece of it. If it had gone in that might have given them momentum.”
Ferrington, who stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced, earned the victory, while Debastos stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third period.
Savard stopped 21 of the 26 shots the Rock fired his way and he was tagged with the loss.
Morin blocked 15 of 16 shots in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — Rock forward Tristan Salesse, serving the third game of a seven-game suspension, did not dress, nor did forward Kyle Levis (away to attend a family function) or Nixon … Saturday’s other NOJHL action saw the Crunch triple the Iroquois Falls Eskis 9-3 in Cochrane and the Thunderbirds beat the Soo Eagles 3-1 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will continue their two-game road trip against the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Sunday night and then return home to host the Blind River Beavers at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night. Game time for that contest is 7:30 p.m.