Timmins Rock defenceman Eric Moreau reaches in to knock the puck off the stick of Rayside-Balfour Canadians forward Gavin Brown during NOJHL action at the Chelmsford Arena Thursday night. The Rock rallied to score a 2-1 shootout victory over the Canadians. The Rock will host the Canadians at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night in their home opener. They will then do battle again Sunday night at the McIntyre Arena. BEN LEESON/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
SUDBURY – Josh Dickson’s shootout marker helped the Timmins Rock edge the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 2-1 Thursday night at the Chelmsford Arena.
It was the second-straight victory for the Rock over the Canadians after they kicked off their 2020-21 NOJHL regular-season schedule with a 4-1 win in Sudbury Sunday night.
Dickson’s first goal of the season Thursday night, off a faceoff to the right of Canadians goalie Dave Bowen with just under four minutes to play in the third period, had deadlocked the game at 1-1.
Rock coach Corey Beer was not 100 per cent sure if it was a set play, or just the way the puck bounced.
“To be honest, from my vantage point I couldn’t see a thing,” he said.
“We run set plays all the time, so I will have to look at it to see if was something that was off it or if it (the puck) just trickled through somehow.”
In previous seasons, the teams would have played a five-minute overtime period before going to a shootout, but in this COVID-19-delayed campaign contests that end in a tie go directly to a shootout.
Dickson was the first Rock shooter and he gave the visitors the advantage when he beat Bowen for the second time.
It didn’t take Beer long to make the decision to have Dickson lead off the shootout for the visitors.
“I think that is something we have been running for a year-and-a-half to two years,” he said.
“Josh is a pretty good lead off guy in the shootout. We didn’t have too many of them last year but it is pretty hard to argue with Dickson and (Rock captain Derek) Seguin going one-two in the shootout.
“It was nice to see Dicksy catch fire and then get the shootout winner, for sure.”
The Canadians first shooter, Mitchell Martin, was foiled by Rock goalie Tyler Masternak.
Bowen then executed a Johnny Bower-like poke check to foil Seguin.
“I thought Seguin made a great move, but Bowen made a fantastic poke check,” Beer said.
“I thought it was a great play all around.”
Canadians sniper Gavin Brown was unable to equalize things, however, due to another Masternak save.
Rock forward Zach Smith had an opportunity to put things away, but he could not beat Bowen.
Facing a must-score situation to keep his team alive, Canadians forward Nicholas DeGrazia was unable to get the puck past Masternak, handing the Rock the 2-1 shootout victory.
Rayside-Balfour Canadians forward Brady Maltais celebrates after beating Timmins Rock goalie Tyler Masternak for a shorthanded goal during Thursday night’s NOJHL game at the Chelmsford Arena. That goal held up until late in the third period, but the Rock rallied to post a 2-1 shootout victory. The Rock will host the Canadians at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night in their home opener. They will then do battle again Sunday night at the McIntyre Arena. BEN LEESON/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
The Canadians had taken a 1-0 lead in the contest thanks to captain Brady Maltais’ shorthanded marker at the 13:50 mark of the opening period.
It was the second-straight game in which the Rock surrendered a shorthanded goal and while Beer was quick to take the blame after the Game 1 gaff that clearly was not the case Thursday night.
“Today, it was a complete lack of effort,” he said.
“Their guys went to the puck and our guys stood around. One of our defencemen had a pinch and they were gone, off to the races.
“That was nothing more than our five guys on the ice standing around admiring a puck that was never going to get to them.
“We are going to watch the film on that one. It is not a pretty one.
“Those five guys need to own that or stuff is going to change. That’s for sure. That is two goals for them on the penalty kill against our second power play unit.
“Pretty soon the top unit is going to start getting 1:50 on the power play. That is not going to be a trend. I guarantee you that.”
Even though it took the Rock a while to get on the scoreboard, their coach was confident if they remained patient good things would happen.
“I think the biggest thing was just sticking to the game plan,” Beer said.
“In a game like this, when you are trailing for a long period of time, knowing you are one goal away, it is very easy to get away from the game plan and do things that are out of character.
“For our guys, sticking to the game plan and listening to the key points myself and the rest of the coaching staff was relaying to them, that’s the reason you come back and win games like this. All the small details matter.
“We kept stressing them and it was good to see the execution from them.”
While the final score was closer Thursday night, Beer felt the Canadians played a solid game in both contests.
“I think they were great in Game 1, to be honest, too,” he said.
“These were two really good hockey games. The score may not have been as reflective in Game 1, but a couple of power-play goals and a couple of five-on-threes in that first game, while tonight there was a little bit more control stuff.
“I thought both games were a mirror image. Both teams were really competing. There was a lot of fast pace.
“Later on in the game, we did a better job today than the other night of limiting red-zone chances. We only had them charted for one, maybe two red-zone chances in the third period.
“In Sunday’s game, when they were pressing to come back, I think they had five or six. We did a better job of collapsing the house and keeping things outside, led by the play of our captain, Derek Seguin.
“He had a huge shot block there with about four minutes to go. That’s the kind of leadership you get from him.”
The coach once again had kind words for the NOJHL’s top netminder.
“He was absolutely incredible,” Beer said.
“Me and Beezer (assistant coach Marc Bisson) were kind of chuckling on the bench because it has been such a treat coach him and watch him play night-in, night-out.
“He saves our bacon more times than we even care to know.
“Both goalies again, Game 1 him and Bowen were both incredible and tonight they were both lights out, key saves in key moments.
“We were pressing even before the game-tying goal and Bowen made a couple of saves and Masty did everything to keep things calm and not let in a weak one.”
A number of other players impressed the Rock coach Thursday night, as well.
“It was a bounce-back game for Cam Kosurko,” Beer said.
“He did a lot of small things well tonight and that is one of the things about his game that is so misleading. He has lots of skill. He has speed. He can make plays on the rush, but where he is at his best is winning those small puck battles, doing the little things on faceoffs to make sure we get possession of the puck.
“He is basically a right-handed, small version of Derek Seguin the way he plays and when he does that he is at his best.
“You also look at a guy who is not a quick guy at all but Riley Robitaille did a lot of the small things tonight, chipping pucks out.
“He knows his role. He knows where his minutes come from. It is not an offensive game he plays but he can manage to be a settling presence out there.
“Those two up front were really good and it allowed us to be able to juggle our lines and get some safety out there at different points.”
The coach also saw flashes from Smith, whose game appears to be evolving.
“Smitty, for me, has been lights out in terms of the jump from where he was last year, and you always wonder how some guys come back in year two, and Smitty to me is the guy who has exploded the most,” Beer said.
“But he definitely put himself into some tough situations by trying to do a bit too much with the puck. When you have a good shot, you have got to shoot the puck.
“When you also play with different linemates, who are crafty around the net, put it (the puck) into a situation where there can be a rebound, an opportunity for somebody else to cash in.
“Smitty has to understand how much of a weapon he is offensively, not just a get in tight and dangle the goalie type of situation.”
The Rock blue-line continued to shine Thursday night, limiting the number of quality chances the Canadians were able to generate.
“Keeping it simple is the name of the game,” Beer said.
“Obviously, they are a pretty active group and at certain points tonight we were pressing a bit much and yet we got our best opportunities from keeping them to the outside of the dots, with little small chips out of the zone, little tuck passes through the middle.
“It is not the big homerun plays. It is not the coast-to-coast things that change the landscape of the game. It is the constant good gaps and our guys had great gaps tonight.
“That allows us to play that hard backchecking pressure, turn pucks over and then go the other way.”
Masternak turned aside 17 of the 18 shots he faced in regulation to earn his second victory of the season.
Bowen, who turned aside 40 of the 41 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Bowen, Masternak and Dickson … The Rock did not dress forward Tyler Patterson, or blue-liners Lucas Branch and Christopher Innes … The Rock went 0-6 on the power play, while the Canadians were 0-5 with the man advantage … The Rock will play their home opener at the McIntyre Arena Saturday, at 8:30 p.m., when they host the Canadian. The two sides will then renew hostilities at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday night.