Timmins Rock forward Kevin Kutasi deflects a shot on Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Artem Bortovskiy during the third period of Friday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The Rock got a pair of goals 29 seconds apart in the second period to edge the Lumberjacks 3-2 — snapping their five-game losing streak. The Rock will host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon. Game time is set for 3 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Captain Wayne Mathieu netted a goal and an assist as the Timmins Rock edged the Hearst Lumberjacks Friday night at the McIntyre Arena — snapping a five-game losing streak.
Mathieu’s third goal of the season at the 16:38 mark of the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Rock defeated the Lumberjacks 3-2.
“We got a good face-off win from Stewie (Stewart Parnell) and (Connor) Losen saw me open,” he said.
“I had plenty of time and I buried my head, took a shot and it went in.”
It was the third goal in the past three games for Mathieu, who scored 29 goals during the 2016-17 campaign, but did not find the back of the net in the Rock’s first 12 games.
“It was a big relief,” he said.
“I got a nice pass from Connor Hoffmann on the first of those two goals on the road. I let out a big sigh of relief.”
Mathieu’s and his teammates got a big boost from playing in front of another large crowd at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
“We had been on the road a lot lately, but it feels great to be back home and playing here,” he said.
His goal came 29 seconds after Alexandre Brisson’s fifth goal of the season had tied things up at 2-2.
“Their tendy (goaltender) was off to the right and I just saw left all the way,” Brisson said.
“I got an unbelievable pass from C.J. (Bradburn). He saw me, I came in and just shot the puck.”
Brisson scored 17 goals in 2016-17, playing mainly on the Rock’s checking line, but his offensive game appears to be blossoming this season.
“It is just a matter of sticking to coach Corey Beer’s program,” he said.
“If you stick with the program you are going to get opportunities and it isn’t just me. Everyone else is getting opportunities, as well.”
The Rock drew first blood Friday night, as Derek Seguin’s fifth goal of the season — a power-play marker — paced the home side to a 1-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first period.
That lead held up until midway through the second period, when the Lumberjacks struck for a pair of goals 42 seconds apart to erase the deficit and take a 2-1 lead.
Max Griffioen’s sixth goal of the season got the visitors back on even terms, while Bradley Golant’s fourth goal of the campaign staked the Lumberjacks to their one-goal advantage.
After Brisson and Mathieu found the back of the net for the Rock, the home side took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third period.
The Lumberjacks pulled goalie Artem Bortovskiy in favour of an extra attacker late in the contest, but there were not able to force overtime.
Beer was pleased with the play of his Rock players from the opening puck drop right through to the final buzzer.
“We have been playing great hockey the last couple of games, but the final scores were unfortunate,” he said.
“I definitely loved the way we played tonight, compete wise. The guys really did a good job of adapting to the game plan we threw at them. They were full marks for this win.”
All five of the Rock’s wins this season have come in the friendly confines of the McIntyre Arena.
“There is no place like home and we rallied off that energy and momentum we were able to gain on our home ice,” Beer said.
“Our fan base is, in my opinion, the best in the league. The atmosphere is incredible and the players feed off of it.”
Beer was a fan of Mathieu’s game even when the Rock captain was struggling to find the back of the net and he was impressed again Friday night.
“We are getting sensational hockey right now from Wayne Mathieu,” he said.
“He is doing all the right things before the puck gets to him, things like defensive positioning and boxing out.
“He has been a horse for us on the penalty kill, as well, although we don’t want to waste too many of his minutes there.”
Beer agrees Brisson has been one of the Rock’s most consistent forwards all season.
“He does so many things for us, he is kind of a Swiss army knife,” he said.
“He kills penalties, he plays on the power play, defensive zone shifts and he has added this offensive flair now.
“He is a great kid to coach and he works his tail off every day.”
Brisson also has the ability to get under the skin of opposing players, getting them off of their game, without taking too many penalties in the process.
“That line, with Linden Spencer, Evan Kentish-Stack and Brisson are really good at that,” Beer said.
“They have formed this little rat pack and they go around pestering teams. They can add a little bit of offence, as well. The three of them complement each other pretty well.”
The Rock also got a strong effort on the defensive side of the puck, not just from their blue-liners but also from their backchecking forwards.
“It was another great game in the defensive zone,” Beer said.
“We limited the number of high-quality changes the Lumberjacks were getting. Everyone has really been buying into our defence-first approach.
“Our forwards’ back pressure was sensational all night. It allowed our defencemen to step up and gap up properly. When they forced turnovers, they had the ability to transition to offence.”
Lumberjacks coach Marc Lafleur felt his squad came up just short in terms of playing a complete 60-minute hockey game Friday night.
“Honestly, if you look at it, we had a lapse of about three minutes and it cost us the game,” he said.
“It was a game that was hard-fought on both sides. Both teams had their chances and their moments. It was an up and down game, but they made a couple of extra plays we didn’t make.”
That is something which has plagued the Lumberjacks too often in recent games.
“We are trying to make the guys understand that every team is going to have some lapses during games, but we need certain guys to make certain plays while the team is down,” Lafleur said.
“For example, winning an important draw, or blocking a big shot when the team is not going well. We need to find guys who understand they have got to make those plays. That’s what championship teams do.”
The veteran coach was impressed with the effort put forth by a number of Lumberjacks players Friday night.
“Vasily Gogolev coming back tonight really solidified our blue-line,” Lafleur said.
“Max Johnson is really starting to pick it up here and his compete level was really solid. Alec Johnson (Alex’s twin brother) is a premier defenceman, not only on our team but in the entire league.
“For him to be involved in a fight tonight really cost us down the stretch. Those are the little details that can affect the outcome of a game, but he has been rock solid for us all year.”
Alec Johnson and Rock defenceman Grant McClellan were ejected from the game late in the second period after they were both assessed five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts following a dust up to the right of the Rock net.
“I don’t know if there is a harder worker on either team than Bradley Golant,” Lafleur said.
“Our goaltending has been solid this year and both goalies tonight made some key saves at key moments in the game. They did and it is expected for your goalie to make some big saves when they are not supposed to make them.”
Goalie Eric Jackson turned aside 19 of the 21 shots he faced to pick up his third win in a Rock uniform.
Bortovskiy blocked 21 of the 24 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars were Mathieu, Brisson and Lumberjacks blue-liner Austin Anselmo (two assists) … Rock did not dress Hoffmann (healthy scratch) and fellow forward Seth Reuben (healthy scratch). Bradburn (lower-body injury) played his first game since Sept. 15 and picked up an assist. Defenceman Will Caston (undisclosed) left Friday night’s game in the first period and did not return … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were also 1-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 827 … Friday night’s other action saw the Crunch dump the French River Rapids 5-3 in Cochrane, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners edge the Express 4-3 in Espanola, the Rayside-Balfour Canadians outscore the Wildcats 8-7 in Elliot Lake and the Soo Eagles defeat the Beavers 3-2 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Rapids at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 3 p.m.