By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
POWASSAN – Wayne Mathieu’s fourth goal of the game lifted the Timmins Rock to a 7-6 double overtime victory over the Voodoos Sunday night at the Powassan Sportsplex.
The shorthanded marker was the sixth goal of the Rock’s two-game road trip for Mathieu as the 19-year-old Timmins native and his linemates — Tyler Romain and Jacob Shankar — remain red hot.
“I told (defenceman Nick) Hautanen right off the draw, let’s kill this one off or score a quick one,” he said.
“I got a lucky bounce, pulled away on a breakaway and put it five hole. Game over.
“I had shot low for three of my goals, so I knew that’s where I wanted to put the puck.”
In his second full season with the Rock, it is hard to imagine that Mathieu has been any hotter during his NOJHL career.
“There’s no way I could have been any hotter than this,” he said.
“I just feel a lot more confident this year.
The trio combined for 10 points (Mathieu four goals, one assist, Romain one goal and three assists and Shankar one assist) to pace the visitors attack as the Rock won their fourth-straight game.
“We have a lot of speed out there and we have a lot of chemistry,” Mathieu said.
“Even during the first three games, we had a lot of scoring chances that we just couldn’t bury. Now that we have started burying them, it just feels great.”
Mathieu acknowledged beating the Voodoos in their own building was a lot tougher than the 9-1 victory the Rock had posted on their home ice Thursday night.
“You can never count those guys out,” he said.
“Those guys are hard workers and they deserve a lot of credit, but our team is really strong and really tough. We play the full 60 minutes and more, if needed. We play a complete team game.”
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was almost at a loss when asked to describe the play of Mathieu and his line in the past two games.
“It’s not incredible, it’s just unbelievable,” he said.
“He is a 200-foot player. He plays on the power play and he kills penalties. He was exhausted after tonight’s game. We played three games in four nights.”
According to Gagne, penalties were the big reason Sunday night’s contest was a lot closer than the Rock’s first encounter with the Voodoos.
“It is just undisciplined,” he said.
“Tripping, interference, cross-checking, these are just nonsense penalties. We gave up three goals in the second period and two of them were scored on the power play.
“Then, in the third period, they scored another power-play goal. It gives the other team life and if you look at the shots on net, they got more than half of them on their power plays.
“I thought we were in total control of the game, except when we took penalties. It changed the momentum every time we took a penalty.
“It was just a good thing tonight that our second line was an unstoppable force.”
The Voodoos drew first blood Sunday night, as Kyle Challis beat Rock goalie Matthew Nixon for his first goal of the season 3:40 into the first period.
The Rock responded with three-straight goals to forge a 3-1 advantage after 20 minutes of player, however.
Jordan Rendle got the puck rolling when he scored his third goal of the season midway through the frame.
Mathieu add his third goal of the season just over a minute later to put the Rock in front by a goal and then Stewart Parnell potted his first goal in the NOJHL less than a minute after that to make it a 3-1 hockey.
With 6:12 remaining on the clock, Voodoos coach Scott Wray opted to lift starting netminder Nicholas Campbell and replace him with Nate McDonald, who had shutout the Blind River Beavers the night before.
McDonald’s luck did not prove to be much better than Campbell’s been, though, as Mathieu’s second goal of the night and fourth of the season just 24 seconds into the second period expanded the visitors’ advantage to three goals.
The Voodoos were not about to roll over and play dead, however, as Powassan reeled off three-straight goals to tie things up at 4-4.
Gary Mantz netted his fourth goal on the season at the 5:58 mark and then Dayton Murray and Challis netted power-play markers 1:42 apart midway through the period to get the home side back on even terms.
Tyler Romain’s goal late in the frame sent the Rock to the second intermission enjoying a 5-4 advantage.
Mathieu increase the Timmins lead to 6-4 at the 4:04 mark of the third period when he scored his fifth goal of the season to complete his hat-trick.
Again, the Voodoos battled back to tie things up and force overtime.
Andy Baker scored his fourth goal of the season, a power-play marker, to cut the home side’s deficit to just one goal.
Then Mantz netted his fifth goal of the season and second on the night with just 55 seconds remaining in regulation to tie things up at 6-6.
Neither team could find the back of the net playing four-on-four during the first overtime period.
Things did not look good for the Rock when Rendle was assessed a two-minute minor for tripping 46 seconds into the second overtime period, but that just set the stage for Mathieu’s double overtime heroics.
Gagne was also impressed with the play of the Rock’s third line — Cole Gilligan, Alexandre Brisson and Parnell — Sunday night, as well as his goaltender.
“They are steady out there and they really do their job,” he said.
“They make things happen and they do a great job killing penalties.
“Nixon made some big saves and he kept us in the game. There were maybe a couple of the goals he would like to have back, but that’s hockey.”
Defenceman Brendan Campbell made his debut in a Rock uniform Sunday night after sitting out four games serving the final four games of a five-game suspension he picked up for a checking-to-the-head penalty during last year’s playoffs with the Ridge Meadow Flames, of the PIJHL.
“He was steady and he did his job out there,” Gagne said.
“He might have been a little nervous during the first period, but he was OK.”
Nixon turned aside 40 of the 46 shots he faced to earn his second victory of the season for the Rock.
McDonald, who blocked 22 of the 26 shots he faced in relief of Campbell, was tagged with the loss for the Voodoos. Campbell stopped five of the eight shots the Rock fired at him in the first period.
NOJHL NOTES — Forward Marcus Blackned did not play Sunday night as he sat out with an upper-body injury sustain during Saturday night’s 7-3 win over the Rapids in French River. He is listed as day-to-day … The Rock went 0-5 on the power play Sunday night, while the Voodoos were 3-8 with the man advantage … The three stars of the game were Mathieu, Challis and Romain … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 169 … Sunday’s other NOJHL games saw the Thunderbirds beat the Iroquois Falls Eskis 5-3 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Express roll over the French River Rapids 6-2 in Espanola and the Canadians blank the Soo Eagles 1-0 in Rayside-Balfour … The Rock will return to action Wednesday night when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.