THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Timmins Rock players, from left, Riley Brousseau, Derek Seguin and Riley Robitaille celebrate Brousseau’s first-period goal during Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Brousseau’s ninth goal of the season gave the Rock a 2-0 lead in a game they would go on to win 6-3. It was the first game for the Rock since Dec. 22 when they dropped a 5-3 home-ice decision to the Hearst Lumberjacks.
Twenty-four days after it started, the Timmins Rock ended their Christmas break by knocking off the NOJHL’s East Division-leading Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 6-3 at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.
Of course, with both teams wearing throwback uniforms, it might be more appropriate to suggest the Timmins North Stars got the best of the Lake Shore Blue Devils.
Either way, there wasn’t even a hint of rust on the home side, as the Rock stormed out to a 3-0 first-period lead and never looked back.
Despite the lengthy layoff, Rock coach Corey Beer was not surprised to see his club firing on all cylinders Tuesday night.
“Maybe when we first got back from the holidays, there was a bit of rust and the fatigue factor of not doing anything over the break, but the last three or four practices were lights out,” he said.
“We put a lot of emphasis on our leadership group to really dial it up. We were in the gym once or twice a day and we put a lot of importance on this game. We wanted to start 2019 off on the right foot.”
The Rock, of course, had been scheduled to end their NOJHL Christmas break with games in French River on Jan. 5 and Powassan on Jan. 6, but those games had to be postponed because of an accident involving the Rapids bus.
It took just 1:34 for stay-at-home defenceman Luka Bolduc to get the puck rolling for the Rock, as he potted his sixth goal of the season.
Four seconds past the midway point of the opening period Riley Brousseau added his ninth goal of the season to put the Rock in front by a pair of goals.
That goal proved to be the end of the night for Gold Mines starting netminder Gregory Brassard, who got the hook in favour of Dawson Rodin.
The move failed to provided the desired swing in momentum the Gold Miners were hoping for, however, as Linden Spencer beat the new goalie for his fifth tally of the season just over four minutes later.
Spencer, who is better known for his defensive abilities than his offensive prowess, also picked up a pair of assists in the contest.
“We were just buzzing out there tonight,” he said.
“It felt very good to be able to help out offensively. I like to score goals, but defence has to come first. I have to play my role.”
The 1999-birth-year forward who hails from Eastman, Que., felt the Rock’s quick start was the key to Tuesday night’s victory.
“The first five minutes we just kept going and going, moving our feet,” Spencer said.
“Everyone was working hard and we just got some greasy goals. That is what we have got to do all the time. Once the puck drops, we have got to go.”
Trailing 3-0 heading into the middle frame, it took the Gold Miners just 24 seconds to get on the scoreboard, with Gregory Trudeau-Paquet potting his 24th goal of the season.
It took less than two minutes for the Rock to regain their three-goal advantage, however, as Gage Tremblay beat Rodin for his sixth goal of the season to make it a 4-1 hockey game.
The Gold Miners were once again able to reduce their deficit to a pair of goals seven seconds shy of the midway point of period when Aiden Wagner notched his ninth goal of the season.
A.J. Campbell struck for his sixth goal of the season two-and-a-half minutes later to send the Rock into the second intermission holding a 5-2 lead.
Once again, the Gold Miners were able to close the gap to a pair of goals when Trudeau-Paquet netted his second goal of the game and 25th of the season just past the midway point in the third period.
In the dying minutes of the contest, the Gold Miners pulled Rodin in favour of an extra attacker, but the Rock were able to seal the deal when Tremblay deposited his second goal of the night and seventh of the season into the empty Kirkland Lake net to make the final score 6-3 in favour of the home side.
Beer gave credit to all 22 players on the roster, not just the 20 who dressed for Tuesday night’s contest, for the team’s success.
“Our practices leading up to tonight and when you practise great it leads to a good game,” he said.
Following the CJHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline, the Rock have been left one forward short after Eamon Bollinger was dealt to the Georgetown Raiders, of the OJHL, but Beer is confident other players will be able to pick up the slack.
“Luka is our leading candidate right now for the Cy Young award,” he said.
“I think he has six goals and just one assist. Our secondary scoring really has to be there in the second half.
“Gage Tremblay probably played his best game in a Timmins Rock, or North Stars, uniform tonight.
“I had a meeting with Linden Spencer and A.J. Campbell the other day and talked about the importance of what they mean to this program. They have been here for a year and a half and the way they play, they don’t get a lot of points, they don’t get a lot of power-play time.
“They do the hard, gritty work and score the take a puck in the face type goals. So, to see them rewarded with the type of night we had tonight was incredible. It is so well deserved.
“From our standpoint, as a coaching staff, we really don’t care if that line scores as long as they play good defensive minutes, do their job and they are good on the penalty kill.
“So, this was all bonus. They played a heck of a game and it was a great start to the season half of the season.”
Gregory Arnburg, acquired by the Rock from the OJHL’s Lindsay Muskies prior to the deadline, made his debut in a Timmins uniform Tuesday night and he did not look out of place.
“He was outstanding,” Beer said.
“He is so good transitionally. He is a big body and he plays physical. Him and Carson Burlington did a great job as our secondary defensive pairing.
“A couple of the guys who played underneath them, too, Luka Bolduc and Eric Moreau, what more could we ask of them? They played key minutes on the penalty kill, the blocked shots and they were great on transition.
“They are kind of the unsung heroes of our back end. They don’t get a lot of love, kind of like Spencer and Campbell up front, but they just keep doing the job.
“Up front, I was very impressed with a lot of our guys. I would be hard pressed to single out any of them because they all played so well.”
Rock netminder Tyler Masternak gave up three goals, but he came up with a number of key saves — especially during the third period.
“During one sequence, I think he made three or four saves in a row,” Beer said.
“We decided we didn’t want to pick anybody up at that point, but that’s the benefit of having a good goaltender in net. You get those key saves when you need them.
“What else is new. Masty is back in perfect form again.”
As good as the Rock have played this season — and they were tied for top spot in the East Division standings when they entered the Christmas break — the Gold Miners have given them fits.
“This win was huge for us,” Beer said.
“Kirkland Lake is arguably the best team in this league. Woody (Gold Miners coach and general manager Ryan Wood) has done such a phenomenal job assembling that roster.
“They are veteran laden. They know how to check. They know how to skate. It takes our best game to beat them. Tonight, fortunately for us, we were on the right side of things.”
Wood was feeling under the weather and his team’s performance on the ice Tuesday night certainly didn’t help.
“They (the Rock) were excited to be on the ice,” he said.
“There was a lot of energy in the building, as well, with the throwback jerseys.
“We got off to a really slow start on the road and Greg gave up a couple of quick goals. Giving up two goals on six shots was not the start we were looking for tonight from our No. 1 goalie.
“I thought we found a way to put together a good second period, only to have a couple of breakdowns.
“Then, I thought we had a really good third period, but we just couldn’t finish. Masternak shut the door on us in the third period.
“Other than the first 10 minutes of the hockey game, I thought it was a fairly evenly matched contest.
“Timmins stuck to their game plan and they executed it well. We didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
The Gold Miners had a solid game plan heading into the contest, but they were unable to execute it effectively.
“You have to score early,” Wood said.
“If you score early, you have got a shot at winning. We weren’t able to score early, so we were playing catch up the whole game. That is hard to do in Timmins. You don’t want to be playing from behind all the time.”
The Gold Miners lost forward Noah Cauchi in the first period to an apparent lower-body injury, which certainly didn’t help.
“He is one of our top scorers,” Wood said.
“It was a grind of a game and I thought our forwards played really well. Some of our defencemen really didn’t play up to their capabilities. It showed tonight and it definitely hurt us.”
With the victory, the third-place Rock (23-14-2-0) were able to close the gap on the second-place Cochrane Crunch (24-14-0-3) to three points in the East Division standings.
The Gold Miners (26-11-2-0) remain three points ahead of the Crunch and six points ahead of the Rock.
Masternak stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced to earn his NOJHL-leading 20th win of the season, while reducing his NOJHL-leading goals against average to 2.27.
Brassard, who stopped four of the six shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss. Rodin blocked 22 of the 25 shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Spencer, Campbell and Trudeau-Paquet … The Rock did not dress forwards Tyler Hutchinson (lower-body injury) and Mahingan Decontie (healthy scratch) … The Rock went 0-1 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 976 … The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they travel to Rayside-Balfour for a game with the Canadians. Their next home game will be on Tuesday night when they host the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.