KIRKLAND LAKE – The Timmins Rock concluded their 56-game NOJHL regular-season schedule Monday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex the same way they started it — with a loss.
With five Great North Midget League affiliate players in their lineup, the Rock dropped a 5-1 decision to the Gold Miners.
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Three unanswered first-period goals allowed the Gold Miners to take control of the contest in the game’s opening 20 minutes.
Defenceman Quinn Schneidmiller’s second goal of the season got the home side off to the races at the 1:43 mark of the frame.
Eight minutes later, Sam Ellwood netted what would prove to be the game-winning marker when he scored his 16th goal of the season to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
Just 28 seconds later, Garett Giertuga increased the home side’s advantage to three goals when he recorded his second tally of the season.
That spelled an end to starting goalie Jordan Yaremchuk’s night, with his Timmins Majors teammate Dylan Dallaire coming on in relief.
The two GNML goaltenders were dressed in place of Rock goalies Tyler Masternak (serving the third game of a three-game suspension) and Eric Jackson (lower-body injury).
“It was kind of just one of those games,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“Both teams were kind of thinking let’s just get this one over with.”
Indeed, with each team playing its final game of the regular season, neither squad had anything on the line Monday night.
Even though Beer opted to make a goaltending change, he didn’t necessarily think Yaremchuk had played poorly to that point in the hockey game.
“I didn’t think Jordan had much of a chance on two of the first three goals we allowed,” he said.
“There were a couple of floaters from the point that got through us. Next thing you know, they are floating in the back of the net.
“It was not a great start, but it was to be expected a bit. The intensity of the game was not there from either club.
“For us, building off a pretty impressive weekend (a 5-3 win over the Rapids in French River Friday night and a 4-2 loss to the Voodoos in Powassan Saturday night), with six or seven APs (affiliate players) in the lineup both nights, we had been hoping to carry that into Monday night.
“Unfortunately, the scoreboard didn’t reflect it.”
Despite the goaltending change, the Gold Miners were able to add to their lead early in the second period when Tyler Fyfe notched his team-leading 36th goal of the season.
The Rock were finally able to get on the scoreboard less than two minutes later when defenceman Jun Yi (Frank) Zhong scored his second goal of the season to pull the visitors to within three goals.
It would not matter, however, as defenceman Jake Semmens scored his third goal of the season 10 minutes later to make the final 5-1 in favour of the Gold Miners.
The setback dropped the Rock’s regular-season record to 19-31-3-3, good for fifth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
Meanwhile, the Gold Miners improved to 24-21-7-4 on the year with the victory.
With both the Majors and the Kapuskasing Flyers having been eliminated from the GNML playoffs, the Rock have had a good opportunity to get a good look at their affiliate players over the past three games.
“Any time you have an AP in the lineup, it is always an audition, right,” Beer said.
“A couple of them showed extremely well over the weekend and we are very encouraged by the possibility of having them in the lineup for us in the post season, or next season.
“It is something we are always evaluating. We are always looking to improve our team in different ways and certainly the job those guys have done recently has helped us, for sure.”
Despite the loss, Beer was impressed with the effort put forth by a number of Rock players in Monday night’s contest.
“I thought the defensive pairing of Jared Hester and Frederic Leclair-Pouw really settled some things down on the back end,” he said.
“They both make great outlet passes and transitionally, they are two really smooth defencemen and good defenders.
“Offensively, the line of (Linden) Spencer, (Jordan) Picard and (Riley) Brousseau, I thought generate some good chances for us. In my opinion, they were probably our best line over the weekend, as well.
“It was nice to see those three pick up where they left off. That line has a bit of a different dimension, with Linden Spencer being a hard-working forechecker, Jordan Picard being an opportunistic skills guy and Riley Brousseau being a kind of a blend of both.
“Stewart Parnell is starting to get his game back, as well, which is going to be very important for us.
“We rested a bunch of our top-end guys tonight.”
The Rock who endured their share — and then some — of injuries this season should be relatively healthy as they prepare for the start of the playoffs.
“We have a couple of guys with bumps and bruises, but nothing major,” Beer said.
“We are healthier than we have been all year.”
Gold Miners goalie Cade McEwen turned aside 25 of the 26 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his eighth victory of the season for Kirkland Lake.
Yaremchuk, who stopped six of the nine shots he faced before getting the hook, was tagged with the loss. Dallaire stopped 23 of the 25 shots directed his way in his 49:35 of relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Schneidmiller, McEwen and Semmens … In addition to Masternak and Jackson, the Rock did not dress defencemen Will Caston and Grant McClellan and forwards Evan Kentish-Stack, Paul Spadafora, C.J. Bradburn and Wesley Weir … The Rock went 0-5 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance a the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 200 … Monday’s other action saw the Voodoos bomb the French River Rapids 11-2 in Powassan … The Rock will begin their best-of-three East Division quarterfinal series at the Claude Larose Arena in Hearst Saturday night. Game time is 7:30 p.m. Game 2 of the series will be played Monday night at the McIntyre Arena, starting at 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of CapturingTheMoment.ca