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Rock gain point but drop OT decision to Cubs

Timmins Rock blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette challenges Greater Sudbury Cubs forward Cameron Walker during an NOJHL game at Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury Thursday night. The Cubs went on to defeat the Rock 3-1 in overtime. BEN LEESON/POSTMEDIA NETWORK jpg, TD

The Timmins Rock managed to pick up a single point while dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex Thursday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

SUDBURY — The Timmins Rock managed to pick up a single point while dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex Thursday night.

That point moved the Rock (11-4-2-1) into a first-place tie with the Hearst Lumberjacks (12-3-1-0) atop the NOJHL’s East Division standings.

Given the Lumberjacks have a pair of games in hand, however, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry had been hoping his team could have secured an extra point.

“There are no moral victories here, but we played a good game,” he said.

“It was a good hockey game, we just came up short.

“That was on me, having the wrong guys on the ice at important moments.

“It bit us in the butt.”

Even though the Rock were outshot 10-8 during the opening period, they emerged with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Lucas Piekarczyk power-play marker, his seventh tally of the campaign, 16:36 into the frame.

The Cubs battled back to tie things up and then take the lead in the second period.

Cole Crowder’s power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season, got the Cubs back on even terms.

And less than two minutes later, Billy Biedermann’s 11th goal of the season put the home side in front 2-1.

The Rock were able to tie things up 52 seconds into the third period, as Piekarczyk netted his second goal of the game and eighth of the season.

The contest remained tied through the end of regulation, with the Cubs striking for the game-winning tally 1:15 into overtime, as Oliver Smith scored his sixth goal of the season to send the Sudbury fans home happy.

Samuel Assinewai hunted down a puck in the corner to the right of Rock netminder Patrick Boivin and fed Smith, who patiently slipped the disc into a low corner for the Cubs’ fifth-straight victory and 10th-straight game without a regulation loss.

“It’s just going to keep getting better from here,” said the 18-year-old Assinewai, who hails from Aundeck Omni Kaning on Manitoulin Island. “It’s just keeping the streak alive.

“It felt great. All I wanted to do was win tonight. I didn’t care about points or anything, I just wanted to get the team a win and Olly buried, of course, so it was perfect.”

Cubs head coach Darryl Moxam clearly liked what he saw from Assinewai in the contest.

“I though Sam was good tonight,” he said. “You’re a little skeptical, putting a guy in on such short notice who hasn’t had much time to practise and learn the systems and the different things we’re doing, but he was everything we had hoped and he’s just going to continue to develop and get better once he’s more familiar with his teammates and the things we’re trying to do.”

In addition to Assinewai’s aforementioned speed and his offensive toolkit, Moxam has been impressed with the youngster’s personality, his character and his willingness to improve his defensive play.

“He earned his ice time tonight. I made it quite clear to him we have a pretty good thing going here and if he wants to be a part of that, we’re happy to have him and help him grow and develop as a person and a player and so far, so good. You add a player of Sam’s calibre and it should only make your team better and hopefully, tonight is just the beginning of something special here.”

While Perry acknowledged the Rock were playing a pretty good team (the Cubs, 13-2-2-0, are the top team in the NOJHL overall standings) Thursday night, he still had been hoping for a better outcome.

“We go into every game expecting to win, obviously,” he said.

“We are not happy with the result tonight, but it doesn’t take away how well we played for 60 minutes.

“There were some big mistakes, at moments, some structural stuff off face-offs where guys weren’t paying attention and some stuff in the NZ (neutral zone) and the puck ended up in the back of our net really quick.

“That happens against good teams, but we missed a lot of chances. We just have to bury our chances and be more mentally engaged.”

Rock goalie Patrick Boivin, who has been hot of late, allowing just three goals in his past five starts, was sharp again Thursday night.

“Patty was good, but there was nothing too dangerous, a lot of outside shots,” Perry said.

“The shots were pretty even. It was a back-and-fourth hockey game.

“I don’t think he was happy with the second goal.”

The Rock had a solid game plan heading into Thursday’s contest, one the coach feels should have worked.

“It was just a matter of execution,” Perry said.

“We have a really good hockey team here and we think it is the best team in the league.

“We are confident in that, so it is just a matter of executing the things we need to get done.

“They are a good team. They are big and heavy and they have some skill up front. They are really deep up front and they have a really good goaltender.”

Perry is confident if they Rock had been a little sharper Thursday night they could have beaten the Cubs.

“I wouldn’t say it was an all-game thing,” he said.

“We played a really solid road game, but we missed a lot of chances, empty nets, some tap-ins.

“The score could easily have gone the other way.”

Despite the loss, there was no shortage of players who caught the coach’s eye Thursday night.

“Everybody was good,” Perry said.

“Lucas Lowe had a strong night and I really liked his line with (Evan) Grigor and (Nicholas) Moore.

“Up and down the lineup, everybody was good. Guys blocked shots. They executed some plays.

“I am just mad that we lost. It’s the way the game goes some nights.”

Cubs goalie Noah Beaulne, who stopped 23 of the 25 shots the Rock directed his way, earned his eighth victory in nine games.

Boivin, who blocked 31 of the 34 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss for the Rock.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Beaulne, Piekarczyk and Smith … The Rock went 1-4 on the power-play, while the Cubs were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex was 427 … The Rock will return to action on Sunday when they host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena, at 3 p.m.