Timmins Rock defenceman Grant McClellan prepares to block a Brandon MacKinnon shot as goalie Tyler Masternak looks on during Game 3 of the NOJHL East Division semi-final series at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night. The Rock held on to edge the Powassan Voodoos 2-1 and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Game 4 will be played at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night. Game time is 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock made a pair of first-period goals stand up en route to a 2-1 win over the Powassan Voodoos in Game 3 of their NOJHL East Division semi-final series Tuesday night at the McIntyre Arena.
With the victory, the Rock assumed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after splitting the first two games of the series in Powassan.
Rock coach Corey Beer agreed the nail-biter gave the fans their money’s worth Tuesday night.
“We have come to expect one-goal games,” he said.
“Everything is tight in the playoffs. Powassan pushed real hard. It was dicey for a bit, but our guys hung in and did what they had to do to get the win.”
The Voodoos dominated the first four or five minutes of the contest, outshooting the Rock 4-0 at one point, but the home side was able to weather the storm — thanks in large part to the goaltending of Tyler Masternak — until they were able to right the ship.
“Maybe we were a little bit too passive to start the game,” Beer said.
“We may have been a little too worried about our defensive assignments, but after we got through the first five minutes or so and decided to ramp up the forecheck, we certainly got going. Then we got a couple of timely goals.
“For whatever reason, we are doing a good job down low on these guys. A couple of pucks squirted out front and fortunately they ended up on our sticks.”
Riley Robitaille opened the scoring for the Rock when he netted his second goal of the playoffs at the 12:47 mark of the opening stanza.
It looked like that would be the way the period would end, but Derek Seguin scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal with 17.4 seconds remaining in the frame to sent the Rock to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead.
The Voodoos began to push back in a big way in the second period, outshooting the Rock 15-4.
Despite the onslaught, the Voodoos were only able to beat Masternak once on a Harrison Israels power-play marker with just under three minutes remaining on the clock.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third period, with the Rock outshooting the visitors 9-7 in the stanza.
Beer continued to show confidence in Masternak after the young goalie gave up five second-period goals in Game 1 of the series and that faith was rewarded once again Tuesday night.
“He kept himself square to everything tonight and, other than a couple of times in the second period, we did a good job of boxing out tonight,” he said.
“We made sure he had clean lanes to see the puck and we had a lot of guys blocking shots tonight, but Tyler was great in net once again.”
Beer was also impressed with the play of Cicigoi in the Voodoos net.
“He is certainly a talented young goaltender and he handled his first Junior ‘A’ post-season start very well,” he said.
“He is a competitor in that net and took some bounces and little breaks for us to get two past him in the first period. Fortunately, that was enough tonight.”
Beer opted not to single out any of his players for extra praise Tuesday night, suggesting everyone played well.
“Our back pressure was there all night and guys were buying in and blocking shots,” he said.
“Our transition stayed sharp and we kept getting pucks in behind their defence. We did all the little things we need to do and we are certainly causing them some trouble. We have to enjoy this win because Wednesday is a new day. We have to expect them to bring their best game Wednesday.
“We will make a couple of adjustments and try to game plan for that.”
Evan Kentish-Stack, one of the Rock’s best penalty killers, was slammed into the boards behind the Voodoos’ net during the third period and he then struggled to get off the ice, but he was able to return later in the frame.
His status for Game 4, however, remains up in the air as he was still feeling the effects of the hit after the game.
“He is a huge part of our team and a huge part of our defensive zone coverage,” Beer said.
Rock assistant captain Grant McClellan received the team’s hard-hat award following the contest for his stellar work on the blue-line.
“We had to make sure we paid attention to the small details the coaches go through tonight,” he said.
“We just went out there, worked hard and paid attention to the little things that will pay off in the long run.”
With the two teams having played each other three times in five days, McClellan — who is one of the Rock’s more physical blue-liners — admitted the rivalry is starting to heat up.
“They are a good team and we have to make sure we are playing five-on-five with them,” he said.
“We need to make sure we stay away from the crap and just concentrate on playing our game.”
After the Rock struggled against the Voodoos in eight regular-season games, McClellan is happy to see his team be able to hold leads against Powassan in the playoffs.
“I think our maturity level has definitely gone up since the playoffs have started,” he said.
“We have grown a lot as a hockey club. Things are starting to come together and I am glad the boys are all buying into it.”
Voodoos coach Bruce Cazabon feels his team needs to “stop chasing the game.”
“We haven’t scored first in any of the three games,” he said.
“In all three games, we have been chasing the game and that hurts.”
Even during the points when the Voodoos dominated they had trouble translating that momentum into any success.
“During the second period, the shots on net were 15-4 and we couldn’t do anything,” Cazabon said.
“We were all around the net, but we just couldn’t put the puck in. Then, in the last five minutes of the game, we put the pressure on them, but we just didn’t shoot the puck. We have to shoot the puck, but you have to give credit to Timmins, too.
“They have a great trap and it’s hard to break.”
Cazabon felt his young goalie was solid after the opening 20 minutes of play.
“He was solid after that,” he said.
“He looked a little bit tentative in the first period, but after that he played pretty good.”
The coach was also pleased with the play of his blue-line in Tuesday night’s contest.
“We are short on defence, but I thought the guys played well,” Cazabon said.
“(Eric) Mondoux, (Eric) Alaire, (Cameron) Moore and (Eric) Nagy were all sharp, as was our affiliate player, Dylan Bond and (Payton) Vescio. They all played well.
“Up front, our big guys, (Dylan) D’Agostino, (Tyson) Gilmour, (Harrison) Israels, (Shane) Beaulieu, (Cade) Herd were strong.
“It has been a great series, but it has been tough to get to open ice. We are going to have to find a way to do that.
Despite being down 2-1 in the series, Cazabon remains confident the Voodoos have what it takes to not only get back in the series but to win it.
“We are a resilient team and hopefully we will bounce back next game,” He said.
“If not, it will be when we go back home. We will bring the series back here. We just have to realize we have to work 60 minutes. We can’t work for 25 and think we are going to win a game.
Masternak turned aside 29 of the 30 shots he faced in the contest to earn his fourth win of the playoffs.
Voodoos goalie Christian Cicigoi, who stopped 20 of the 22 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Masternak, Seguin and Cicigoi … The Rock did not dress defenceman Collin McGuire (undisclosed), forward Paul Spadafora (undisclosed) and forward C.J. Bradburn (upper-body injury) … The Rock were 0-2 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,123 … Tuesday’s other contest saw the Beavers blast the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 8-1 in Game 3 of their West Division semi-final series. The Beavers now lead the series 2-1 … Game 4 of the series between the Rock and the Voodoos will be played at the McIntyre Arena Wednesday night. Game time is 7 p.m.