Stewart Parnell’s goal 53 seconds into overtime lifted the Timmins Rock to a 4-3 win over the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night.
The Crunch had forced the extra frame when Matthew Minichiello scored his second goal of the night and 17th on the season with just 1:07 remaining in regulation.
With the win, the Rock (28-6-1-1) pulled into second place in the NOJHL’s overall standings — two points back of the Powassan Voodoos (30-6-0-0).
To say the Rock dominated the opening 20 minutes of play might be a bit of an understatement given that they outshot the Crunch 18-1.
Despite the one-sided action, the Rock were only able to skate into the first intermission with a 1-0 advantage — thanks in large part to the steady play of Crunch goalie Zach Wickson, who stopped 53 of the 57 shots he faced in the contest.
The only shot to elude the Cochrane keeper in the first period was Phil Caron’s power-play marker, his ninth goal of the season, at the 13:35 mark.
“I thought the first period was the best hockey we have ever played here,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“It was incredible. We had the puck the entire time. The shots were 18-1, or 20-2, whatever it said they were and we had great chances.
“Their goalie was outstanding — especially in the first period — but all game to be quite honest.”
Things did not go the Rock’s way in the middle frame, however, even though they outshot the Crunch 15-12.
Owen Perala got Cochrane back on even terms when he netted his 14th goal of the season 2:56 into the period.
Then, with just 1:21 remaining on the clock, Perala stole the puck when two Rock players collided in their own zone and slipped a pass to Minichiello, who was cruising down the slot, and watched as his linemate buried his first goal of the game and 16th of the season.
“I don’t know how we can go from having the best period of hockey to our worst period, but it happened,” Beer said.
“We did not have good intensity out there in the second period. We were very casual. I think our guys looked at it and said, ‘hey, the shots were 18-1 in the first, why can’t it be 18-1 in the second, as well.’
“It just wasn’t a good recipe and our guys got way to confident. You can’t do that on our side (East Division). The teams are too good.”
The Rock got their groove back in the third period to outshoot the Crunch 23-3.
Captain Derek Seguin tied things up when he struck for a power-play marker, his 19th goal of the season, at the 5:22 mark.
The Rock then retook the lead as Zach Smith hit Tyler Gilberds with a perfect feed in front of the Crunch net and the later deposited the puck behind Wickson for his 12th goal of the season.
That set the stage for Minichiello’s game-tying goal later in the frame and Parnell’s game-winner in overtime.
“We were better in the third period,” Beer said.
“The final shots were 57-16 and you can’t argue with it, but we were just sloppy at times.”
While the Rock coach was, for the most part, pleased with his team’s third period, he was not too happy with the game-tying goal.
“We were very casual on that play,” Beer said.
“Poke check and the guy walked right through us. It is just attention to detail. It starts right from a bad line change, up ice, where our players are 30 seconds into their shift, get the change, make sure we have bodies back, across the ice and we don’t get it and two guys change on the back check and the next thing you know the puck is in the back of our net.
“It was a preventable goal. You look at last weekend against the Soo (2-1 road loss to the Thunderbirds) and now you look at this.
“There were a lot of small detail points that we take a lot of pride in, but our guys were not holding up their end of the bargain.
“It will be a little bit back to the drawing board in practice on Friday, that’s for sure.”
There were a number of Rock players who caught their coach’s eye Thursday night.
“I really liked Gabby Kioki’s game tonight,” Beer said.
“He was a new guy coming into the lineup and he did a good job and he generated some good offence for us. You can see he is going to be a real good player for us.
“He can score and he has got great instincts.”
Kioki, who hails from Attawapiskat and played with the GNML’s Timmins Majors, was picked up from the CCHL’s Rockland Nationals earlier this week.
“Riley Brousseau had a great game, too,” Beer said.
“I love his jump so far in the new year. He has made a point of making himself more dangerous. He plays with speed and he has been creating some good offence.
“I also thought Zach Smith had a good bounce-back game. He wasn’t great in the Soo, but he played a lot better tonight.
“Those three guys and Tyler Gilberds were really good tonight.”
Parnell, who now has four game-winning goals on the season, has been one of the hottest Rock snipers of late.
“Stewart has the hot stick right now,” Beer said.
“He has scored a bunch of games in a row here and he is a powerful forward. I don’t know how you get the puck off of him when he is in protection mode.
“He is really taking educated shots on net, shooting far pad, shooting low blocker.”
While the Crunch did not pick up the W Thursday night, they have now picked up points in four-straight games.
“I am disappointed about today,” said Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard.
“I know we gave up a lot of shots and in the first period we gave up quite a few shots, but Wickson made a lot of glove saves where he didn’t have to worry about doing too many crazy things.
“I thought our D played well on a lot of those plays.”
Leonard felt his squad was much stronger in the second period of play.
“You know what, we had to wake up a bit,” he said.
“It is tough when you are in a tough division like this and you go play one team one night, then you see another team the next night and every team has got a different style.
“Timmins has got a lot of speed. You play Hearst and they have a lot of skill and big bodies. Then you play Powassan and they have got a lot of finess and we have seen them all in the last five games.
“You have to try and adjust to everybody and that’s what the first 10 minutes of the hockey game was tonight, trying to adjust to the speed.”
There were plenty of Crunch players who made a positive impression on their coach Thursday night.
“Matthew Minichiello was a beast out there tonight,” Leonard said.
“He got the beautiful shorthanded goal and then tied the game up after deking the defenceman inside and out and he made a beautiful pass on the first goal of the game.
“He was definitely the best player on the ice for both teams tonight. I was happy for him. It was a tough day for him because we traded his brother this afternoon.”
The Crunch traded Stephen Minichiello to the Dryden Ice Dogs, of the SIJHL.
“That whole line, with Owen Perala, who had three points tonight, and Billy Paschen, who had two points tonight, was great,” Leonard said.
“It was Billy’s first game back today. He had been off since October after breaking his leg at the (NOJHL) Showcase.
“He really logged a lot of ice time and did his job because Hunter Buzzi was a late scratch, with the flu.
“Overall, we are happy. We came into a tough building and got a point.”
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak blocked 13 of the 16 shots he faced to pick up his 17th win of the season, while Wickson was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Wickson, Parnell and Seguin … The Rock went 2-7 on the power play, while the Crunch were 0-1 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 921 … The Rock will head out on a two-game road trip that will see them make stops in Powassan Saturday night and French River Sunday afternoon. The next home game will be on Saturday, Jan. 18, when the Rock will host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena in a 7 p.m. start.