GALLERY: Rock edge Crunch

IROQUOIS FALLS – The Timmins Rock held on for a 4-3 victory Sunday night at the Jus Jordan Arena and a split of their two-game exhibition series against the Cochrane Crunch.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

Two nights after scoring a pair of goals in the final 1:02 of Friday’s nights contest to force overtime in a game they would go on to lose 6-5, it looked like the Crunch were going to pull off a miraculous comeback of their own.

With The Rock enjoying a 4-2 advantage late in the third period Sunday night, the Crunch pulled goalie Kyle Henderson in favour of an extra attacker with 1:25 remaining in regulation.

The move paved off 22 seconds later when Kyle Podwika scored his third goal of the game to cut Cochrane’s deficit to a single goal.

Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard opted to keep Henderson on the bench for the game’s final 1:03 in hopes lightning would strike twice, but the Rock were able to weather the storm an escape with the victory.

Rock coach Corey Beer acknowledged his team surrendering three fewer goals Sunday night was not necessarily the result of sound defensive play.

“No, we certainly got the run-and-gun offence in full effect,” he said.

“We will have to slowly develop a bit better regiment in our own end and try and get things going that way.”

There did, however, seem to be a bit better structure among the Rock forward units and defence pairings in Sunday night’s contest.

“I loved our compete level tonight, too,” Beer said.

“Our back pressure is going to be so key for our defence. Obviously, any time you can insert veteran defencemen like James Watier and Jared Hester into the lineup, as well as Wayne Mathieu up front, it is going to be a benefit.”

Those three veterans sat out Friday night’s contest so the Rock could get a better look at some of their new players, as well as a number of youngsters who are on the bubble when it comes to making the roster.

Beer had plenty of praise for Watier and Hester.

“Their puck movement was incredible,” he said.

“Their gap control was terrific.

“Up front, we got a lot of mileage out of Donny Schultz again and Linden Spencer. That was a world class goal he (Spencer) scored and I really love his ability on the penalty kill.

“We got a better game out of Tyler Planetta tonight, too. He has a big body and if he can play a key role for us, it will be something that will help us out in the long run.”

Discipline was again a bit of an issue for the Rock, although they were not forced to kill quite as many penalties as Friday night.

“We wanted to get some work on the penalty kill, but not that much work,” Beer said.

“It is something we are very aware of and that we are going to try and curtail in the next couple of days.”

Eric Jackson, who backed up affiliate goalie Jordan Yaremchuk in Friday night’s overtime loss, went the distance in goal for the Rock.

“Some of the goals he gave up tonight were the result of some Grade A scoring chances, something we are going to have to clean up,” Beer said.

“That is going to be a big priority in practice during the next couple of days. I thought E.J. did a great job of holding the fort tonight and giving us a chance to win this game.”

The play of Podwika — who score four goals in the two exhibition games — clearly caught the attention of Beers.

“He is quite the player and so is the (Josh) Roberts kid, No. 23,” he said.

“They are certainly very elite offensive talents and they are going to be an asset for that team. They are a couple of guys we are very aware of, for sure.”

Like Friday night’s game, it was the Rock who found the back of the net first, as Linden Spencer raced down the right wing, cut to the net and beat Henderson with the first of his two goals at the 13:55 mark of the opening period.

With just 32.8 seconds remaining in the frame, Wayne Mathieu streaked into the attacking zone and despite being harassed by a Crunch backchecker beat Henderson to put the Rock up 2-0 heading into the first intermission.

The Crunch regrouped during the break and battled back to tie things up at 2-2.

Podwika beat Jackson for a power-play goal at the 6:25 mark of the middle period and he found the back of the net again 46 seconds later to get Cochrane back on even terms.

The contest remained deadlocked until late in the second period when the Rock capitalized on a five-on-three power play, as defenceman Grant McClellan snuck a point shot through Henderson to put Timmins in front 3-2 with just 35.5 seconds remaining on the clock.

Spencer added a second power-play marker to put the Rock up 4-2 just over seven minutes into the third period.

Leonard was naturally pleased with the play of the line of Podwika, Roberts and Brisson.

“They are getting the puck and they are working hard,” he said.

“They were on the ice for six of the nine goals we scored in these two games.

“Our D were pretty strong tonight, as well, but at the end of the day even though these were exhibition games you still have to look at the positives and the negatives.

“The positives are we were able to make it close. It was only a 4-3 hockey game, but we gave up two power-play goals to them tonight, including one on a five-on-three.

“Again, for the most part, I think we carried a lot of the play. We were in a neutral rink and the shot clock showed we almost doubled them in shots.

“The problem is we have some guys who don’t want to pay the price and some of those guys, as imports, are supposed to be key guys for our organization.

“Wednesday night is going to be a tryout night for some of them. Even though they have signed a contract to play here (Cochrane) doesn’t mean we have to keep them.

“Right now, we have a line and a half that has shown a lot in these two games, but we are still trying to find a third and fourth line and half a second line.

“I know we have four or five veterans who are not here right now, but you would think other guys would want to get hungry.”

According to statistics kept by the Crunch, the line of Podwika, Roberts and Brisson had 24 of their team’s 37 shots on the night.

“That doesn’t say much for our other three lines over the course of three periods,” Leonard said.

“You need more than one line to win a hockey game. In this league, you need two or three solid lines and a good checking line as your fourth line. We haven’t seen that yet.

“We keep seeing the same mistakes being made and the same players who don’t want to pay the price.

“At the end of the day, my job is to make sure we have a strong hockey team and a winning hockey club and that we are going to have a team that is competitive. If you don’t want to compete, you might not be here.”

Jackson turned aside 34 of the 37 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rock.

Henderson stopped 19 of the 23 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Rock were 2-4 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Jus Jordan Arena was 326 …The Rock did not dress goalie Brendan Bishop (upper-body), defenceman James Redmond (upper-body), forwards Stewart Parnell and Derek Seguin. Parnell and Seguin are away at OHL camps … The Rock will return to exhibition action on Thursday night when the Hearst Lumberjacks make their first visit to the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.