COCHRANE — Mahingan Decontie’s goal with 19.8 seconds remaining in the first overtime period lifted the Timmins Rock to a 2-1 win over the Crunch and a sweep of their best-of-three NOJHL East Division play-in series Sunday night at the Tim Horton Event Centre.
It was the first goal of the playoffs for the 18-year-old Gatineau, Que. Native who is in his first year with the Rock.
The Rock took Game 1 of the series 5-2 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night and if they had not been able to close out the series Sunday night they would have had another opportunity on home ice Wednesday.
Coach Corey Beer is happy it didn’t come down to that, however.
“I really liked our play overall throughout the night,” he said.
“We were facing the defending (NOJHL) champions, who were fighting for their lives. For us, as a club trying to knock them off, we have to understand we have to stay with it.
“They scored that goal late (in the third period), but I loved our guys composure going into that overtime period. We had to kill of a penalty (a slashing call against blue-liner Eric Moreau at the 1:01 mark) early on and I thought our transition game really took hold there, too.
“This was a great win for our guys.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead on A.J. Campbell’s first goal of the playoffs at the 15:51 mark of the opening period.
Neither team was able find the back of the net in the second period and it looked like 1-0 might be the final score but the Crunch were not about to go down without a fight.
They got one final opportunity when Rock forward Matt Capisciolto was sent off for hooking with two minutes remaining in regulation.
It took Crunch forward Zach Hayes just five seconds to make the most of the chance, as he beat Rock goalie Tyler Masternak for the game-tying goal to send it to overtime knotted up at 1-1.
Unlike regular season overtime — three-on-three hockey for five minutes, with a shootout to settle the outcome if the game remains tied — the playoffs feature full 20-minute five-on-five overtime periods, with play continuing until one team scores.
It took almost the full 20 minutes for Decontie to net the game-winning goal on a nice setup from linemate Josh Dickson.
Giving up a goal late in the third period could have resulted in a big swing in momentum, but Beer didn’t feel that was the case Sunday night.
“Had there been maybe five or six minutes left, maybe they could have carried that momentum,” he said.
“Because there was so little time, we were able to go back into the room in the intermission, catch our breath and get the game plan back on track. Our leadership group really took charge in the dressing room and moving forward into overtime, I thought we took care of our business and came away with a big win.”
There was no shortage of Rock players who impressed their coach in the series-clinching victory.
“Ty Masternak was absolutely sensational in net and made some key saves,” Beer said.
“He gave us every chance to win this game and Josh Anderson, in my opinion, was again one of the best players on the ice. He played some monster minutes and did everything at a high pace. His efficiency throughout the night was second to none.
“Up front, we put them together late, but I loved the line of Dickson, (Riley) Brousseau and Decontie.
“He got the game-winning goal and I thought this was Deco’s best game of the year, by far. He was slippery offensively, making plays and doing things defensively to help out.
“You need that. You need guys up and down your lineup to contribute, not just your top dogs. I felt like tonight we got great contributions from some of our depth guys.
“When the top lines saw each other off, you need somebody else to come through and we got that from No. 21 tonight.”
While the Rock are happy to have the Crunch in their rear view mirror, at least for now, they know their jobs is far from finished.
“This is just Step 1,” Beer said.
“We had to play in this play-in series and grind through it, now the next step is going to be facing a tremendous team in Hearst. We will have to be on our game when we face them.
“Full credit to our guys, though, for winning back-to-back games with huge performances from everybody up and down the lineup.”
With the play-in series under the belt, the Rock will take Monday off before beginning to prepare for their upcoming series against the Lumberjacks.
“Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will feature a lot of game planning,” Beer said.
“We will more than likely start Friday night in Hearst, but nothing is official yet.
“We can feel good about our win tonight, but we are a long ways from our goal.”
While most teams eliminated from the NOJHL playoffs turn their attention to off-season pursuits, the Crunch — as hosts — will be moving on to the Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament.
Despite the loss Sunday night, Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was happy with his depleted team’s compete level.
“We are not going to use any excuses, but you could tell from Saturday night we weren’t really well,” he said.
“Some of our guys had the flu pretty bad and tonight four of them couldn’t even dress. We had to use a bunch of affiliate kids and we played with only 13 regular players in the lineup.
“For our seven forwards to battle like they did, as well as our defence and our goalie was amazing.
“Eli Hernandez couldn’t even make it to the rink, he was so sick. (Owen) Perela got really sick, as well, and he couldn’t show up at the rink. Jacob Stos started the game, but he had to leave at the end of the first period. He was sicker than a dog and throwing up.
“We also lost Jonas Leas, who hurt his leg and we already had Nicolas Flanders out (serving the second game of a two-game suspension he picked up during the Canadians final regular season game in Rayside-Balfour).
“We held a hockey team like that to a single goal for almost four full periods and I am really proud of these guys. It is probably the most proud of them I have been all year.
“They showed a lot of character. They played for their coaches tonight and they played for each other. It was great. They didn’t give up.”
Leonard was impressed with the goaltending at both ends of the rink, as well as the pace of play.
“Dobson played an amazing game for us and Masternak did great,” he said.
“There were three times we thought we had won it in overtime, but the puck would just trickle by the post.
“It was a hard-hitting, fast, clean hockey game. We wish the Rock nothing but the best of luck going forward and hopefully we can see them down at the Dudley Hewitt Cup. It would be great to have their fans here with our fans.
“The Rock fans, we probably had about 150 of them here tonight, showed some great sportsmanship.
“Even when we came off the ice, they cheered and they clapped.”
The Crunch will send their players home for a week of rest, relaxation and healing before they begin to resume work in preparation for the Dudley Hewitt Cup.
“We will have five weeks from there to get ourselves in physical shape,” Leonard said.
“Every Monday to Thursday we will work the crap out of them and try to find a few games, maybe against some colleges or prep schools.”
Masternak turned aside 31 of the 32 shots he faced to pick up his second victory of the 2019 playoffs.
Moose Factory native Bradley Dobson, making his first start and second appearance of the series, blocked 44 of the 46 shots the Rock directed his way and he was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Decontie, Dobson and Masternak … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Tim Horton Event Centre was 413 … Sunday’s only other game saw the Blind River Beavers triple the Wildcats 6-2 in Elliot Lake to sweep the best-of-three West Division play-in series 2-0 … The Rock will move on to face the Hearst Lumberjacks, who finished first in the East Division, in a best-of-seven series. The NOJHL has not officially announced the dates for that series yet.