TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock blew a three-goal lead in the final two minutes of the third period, but went on to edge the Cochrane Crunch 7-6 in a shootout at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.
It was the third-straight win for the Rock (29-17-3-0) who leapfrogged over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (28-16-2-2) for third place in the East Division standings.
And the victory leaves the Rock just three points behind the East Division-leading Hearst Lumberjacks (29-15-5-1) — whom they will face in Hearst Friday night and then host at the McIntyre Arena on Family Day — and two points behind the second-place Crunch (29-18-1-4).
That gap on the Crunch would only be one point, of course, is the Rock had held on to win Tuesday night’s contest in regulation, but Timmins still has three games in hand on Cochrane and one on Hearst.
So, was Rock coach Corey Beer furious his team blew a three-goal lead in a two-minute span against a division rival, or overjoyed they secured yet another shootout win?
“It is one of those things,” he said.
“Probably early in October or November, we would have nit-picked it, whipped them pretty good, it’s unacceptable, all that kind of stuff, but in February, we will take that win every time — especially when it is against somebody you are chasing.
“Yes, we gave them the one point, but we will take the win. We will do video at practice there tomorrow, reset stuff and look at what happened. It is always better to go back and watch everything to see what actually transpired.
“We know our defencemen were way too aggressive at the blue-lines and it caused too many odd-man rushes. I said it during the first minute of the game. I said it during the first minute of the second period and the first minute of the third period. It just never got corrected.”
An extra round was required to decide Tuesday night’s shootout after each team’s first three shooters were denied.
Crunch goalie Bradley Dobson stood tall against Rock shooters Josh Dickson, Derek Seguin and Matt Capisciolto, while Timmins goalie Tyler Masternak kept his perfect streak alive against the Cochrane shooters Ethan Emanuel, Hunter Buzzi and Tristan Taillefer.
The Rock’s fourth shooter, Keegan McMullen, finally broke the stalemate when he beat Dobson — eliciting a huge round of applause from the home fans, who could be forgiven for assuming Masternak would deny the fourth Crunch shooter.
Masternak has not given up a shootout goal all season long and that trend continued Tuesday night when he stopped Zach Hayes on Cochrane’s fourth and final attempt to preserve the Rock victory.
The Crunch — who dropped a 2-1 decision to the Rock at the Tim Horton Event Centre Saturday night — got on the scoreboard first Tuesday night when Nicolas Flanders netted his 17th goal of the season at the 4:17 mark of the opening period.
The Rock battled back to tie things up at 1-1 on captain Derek Seguin’s team-leading 28th goal of the season three minutes later.
Prior to the end of the frame, the Crunch were able to once again pull in front by a 2-1 margin, however, when Hayes scored his 14th goal of the season.
Even though each team had nine shots on goal in the second period, the Rock tied things up and then took a 3-2 lead, thanks to Dickson’s 13th and 14th goals of the season.
There was no shortage of offence in the third period, with the two teams combining for seven goals.
Trent Grimshaw’s 12th goal of the season at the 8:47 mark of the frame tied things up at 3-3.
It took the Rock just 12 seconds to regain the lead, however, with Gage Tremblay’s 10th goal of the season putting the home side back in front.
Riley Brousseau’s power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season, extended the Rock lead to a pair of goals and then Riley Robitaille added his 11th goal of the season to make it a 6-3 hockey game with just 2:37 remaining in regulation.
With bad weather looming, many fans began to exit the McIntyre Arena thinking the Rock had the game in the bank.
Not so fast.
Justin Bofshever scored his 15th goal of the season just 46 seconds after Robitaille has extended the Rock lead to three goals.
Then, just 27 seconds later, with Dobson on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, blue-liner Eli Hernandez netted his first goal of the season to make it a one-goal game.
And, with 41 second remaining in regulation, Jacob Stos potted his 15th goal of the season to complete the comeback.
Five minutes of three-on-three sudden-death overtime failed to decide anything, resulting in the need for the shootout.
Four or five of the goals the Rock gave up Tuesday night were a result of scrambles in front of their net, something Beer was not happy about.
“At one point, I was looking at the shots on our shot chart and a lot of the shots were from the perimeter, but the goals we gave up were from inside the house,” he said.
“It was due to a lack of physicality. Our defencemen need to understand while they are good puck movers, they need to take care of our end first. There was no physical play from them on the back end tonight.
“It was not a good effort from our seven guys back there tonight. Again, you can’t whip them that bad because they have been so good lately.
“They were also the key starting point on a lot of our goals tonight, but from a defensive aspect, it will get corrected.”
Given how tight the standings are in the East Division, the Rock coach knows his squad was matched up against a pretty desperate hockey team late in the third period.
“Credit to them,” Beer said.
“They are a veteran team and it showed why they are the defending champs from last year. They keep coming, no matter what. They have that instinct built into them. They did it to us a few weeks ago.
“I would have liked to have seen from our guys a little bit of resiliency there. We were up 6-3, but by no means was that game done. When a young hockey team like ours goes to sleep, it comes back to bite you. We will certainly use this as a teaching point.”
Up front, there were plenty of Rock players who caught their coach’s eye with a strong effort Tuesday night.
“I thought the Seguin, Capi, McMullen line was good at certain points,” Beer said.
“When they tailed off, Brousseau, Dickson and Tremblay, picked up the slack. (Linder) Spencer, (A.J.) Campbell and Robitaille really offered a different dimension in terms of the forecheck pressure.
“(Darcy) Haupt and (Mahingan) Decontie, as the 10 and 11 guys got mixed throughout the lineup. I thought we were good up front, to be quite honest. Up front, I thought our forwards were very good.”
It isn’t often Masternak — who coming into Tuesday night’s contest led the NOJHL in wins, goals against average, shutouts and minutes played — gives up six goals in regulation.
“He was good in the OT and the shootout,” Beer said.
“That’s kind of his thing. He gets locked in and he is very good that way, but I think Masty will look back on the film and will want a couple of those (regulation) goals back.
“When it gets scrambly, he has to be that calm leader back there.”
While Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was pleased to see his squad stage a miraculous comeback and salvage a point, he was left wanting more.
“I would have liked to have seen that effort for the whole game,” he said.
“It was a pretty lackluster game from both teams tonight. I didn’t see much energy.
“They picked it up for eight minutes and then we did the same thing in the last two minutes.
“We stuck with it. It was 3-2 and we tied it up and then we let in that awful goal to make it 4-3. That goal can’t go in. Our defenceman made a terrible decision, icing the puck for no reason and they scored right off the face-off on a weak shot that has to be stopped.
“That gave them momentum and they scored a bunch, then we scored one with two minutes left to give us a bit of momentum and then we scored two more to come back and tie it.”
Given how tight the East Division is, Leonard knows every point down the stretch is important.
“That point is a big point for us,” he said.
“We have four games left, so we have got to be happy with it.”
Despite the loss, a number of Crunch players impressed their coach with a solid effort Tuesday night.
“That whole Flanders group, with (Austin) Whelan and Grimshaw was awesome,” Leonard said.
“They played a solid game tonight and Emanuel is always the best player on the ice for both teams. He is everywhere out there and he played a solid game tonight.
“I was happy with Hunter Buzzi, as well.
“At the end of the day, we just didn’t have the horses to get the two points. We got what we deserved tonight with the one point. We didn’t deserve the two points.”
Masternak, who stopped 23 of the 29 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, earned his NOJHL-leading 26th win of the season.
Dobson, who turned aside 32 of the 38 shots the Rock directed his way in regulation and overtime, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were McMullen, Flanders and Seguin … The Rock did not dress goalie Jean-Marc Brisson (lower-body injury), or forwards Tyler Hutchinson (upper-body injury) and Benjamin Jossinet (undisclosed). With Brisson sidelined, Timmins Majors goalie Connor Johnson backed up Masternak Tuesday night … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play, while the Crunch were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 714 … Tuesday’s only other contest saw the Soo Eagles triple the Wildcats 6-2 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action Friday night when they take on the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst. The next home game will be on Monday when they take on the Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 3 p.m.