By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Jacob Shankar’s 13th goal of the season with 1:48 remain in the second overtime period lifted the Timmins Rock to a 3-2 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
It had seemed the game was destined to end in a rare tie as the two sides exchanged chance after chance in the third period, the first overtime and then the second before Shankar was able to convert a centring pass from Wayne Mathieu for the game-winning goal.
Given that Shankar’s image was featured on the Timmins Rock hockey cards given out to fans arriving for the game and that the 17-year-old Prescott, Ont., native was scheduled to sign them following the final buzzer, it was only fitting that he was the one to net the deciding goal.
“I saw the defenceman moving out and Wayne circled out of the corner, I drove the net and he hit me with a nice pass,” Shankar said.
“I got lucky and it went in.”
Shankar had a number of opportunities in the third period and earlier in the two overtime frames, but he either missed the net or Gold Miners goalie Allan Menary came up with a big save.
“It was a little frustrating, but you just have to keep your cool out there,” he said.
“I just had to work through it. As a team, we just went out there and did everything it took to get the win tonight.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead Saturday night, as captain Jordan Rendle scored his 21st goal of the season just 3:11 into the contest to cue a flurry of teddy bears and other stuffed animals onto the ice surface of the McIntyre Arena.
“It was a nice feeling to bury that goal,” Rendle said.
“There had been a lot of chit-chat in the dressing room and a lot of goofing around all week about who would score that goal.
“I was just hoping to get the shot on net. It was the first three minutes of the game and I got lucky enough to have it sneak through.”
After giving up that early goal, beating Menary proved to be a lot more challenging for the Rock Saturday night.
“He is a pretty good goalie, so our game plan was to get pucks on net all night,” Rendle said.
“We wanted to get the puck behind their D and work our cycling game. Then, when we got a chance, we wanted to shoot the puck.”
The captain felt the key to the Rock’s eventual success was remaining patient and maintaining their focus.
“You have to keep your head up and keep grinding,” Rendle said.
“We knew eventually, we would be rewarded for our persistence. We just kept following our game plan and it paid off.”
The Rock’s second-annual Teddy Bear Toss proved to be quite successfully, as it took some time for the players on the ice to gather together all their new furry friends for delivery to the North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services and distribution to local youngsters in need of a little extra Christmas cheer.
The Gold Miners were able to deadlock the game at 1-1 five minutes later when Marshal Nikitin beat Rock goalie Albert Rogers for his sixth goal of the season.
Bain Cunningham restored the Rock’s one-goal lead when he beat Menary for his 12th goal of the season midway through the second period of play.
That’s the way the score stayed until late in the third period when Ashton Amaya scored his 17th goal of the season to tie things up at 2-2 and force overtime.
Rock defenceman Spencer Segui suffered a serious facial injury on the play that resulted in the loss of a number of teeth.
There was no word following the contest on how long the injury might keep Segui out of the lineup.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was happy to see his team record its third-straight victory, especially after his team dropped a 6-5 double-overtime decision to the Gold Miners the last time the two teams played Dec. 3 in Kirkland Lake.
“It was a good, entertaining hockey game,” he said.
“We didn’t capitalize on some really great chances tonight, but we capitalized on one in the right moment.”
Despite jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 3:11 into the contest, the Rock were not as sharp as they have been in the past during the opening 20 minutes of play.
“We were a little bit sluggish in the first period,” Gagne said.
“We didn’t have that real intensity that we normally do with our forecheck. It didn’t seem like they were sharp either. It was just like a blah first period.
“Both teams played a little bit better in the second period. The third period was almost a cautious, tactical period. Fans saw a great forecheck and great defensive play and great goaltending for both teams.”
While Gagne was pleased with the performance of all his players, he chose to single out a few for their exceptional play.
“(Grant) McClellan really did his assignments out there on defence,” he said.
“He really worked hard and made some incredible plays defensively, second effort, third effort. I was really pleased with his play.
“Obviously, our goaltender (Rogers) kept us in there tonight. He stopped two breakaways and three two-on-ones in the first period. He also stopped another breakaway in the first five minutes of the second period.
“It was also beautiful to see our third line (Cole Gilligan, Stewart Parnell and Alexandre Brisson) work so hard and make things happen out there.
“Our captain, Rendle, he made things happen out there tonight, as well. He had some great opportunities tonight.
“I could go on. It was a real team effort tonight.”
Rogers turned aside 34 of the 36 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rock.
Menary blocked 42 of the 45 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Shankar, Nikitin and Cunningham … The Rock did not dress defenceman Jared Hester (lower-body injury) and goalie Matthew Nixon (healthy scratch) … The Rock were 0-1 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 710 … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw the Eskis defeat the Cochrane Crunch 7-2 in Iroquois Falls, the Powassan Voodoos beat the Soo Thunderbirds 5-3 for their 22nd-straight victory, the Espanola Express edge the Canadians 3-2 in Rayside-Balfour and the Beavers get past the Soo Eagles 2-1 in Blind Rover … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday night when the travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. That will be the final game for both teams prior to the Christmas break.