THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Kirkland Lake Gold Miners goalie Dawson Rodin looks behind him as the puck rattles around in his net after Timmins Rock captain Derek Seguin scored what would prove to be the only goal in a three-round shootout victory for the home side. The 4-3 win pulled the Rock one point closer to the NOJHL’s East Division-leading Gold Miners.
The Timmins Rock blew a two-goal, third period lead but pulled out a 4-3 shootout win over the NOJHL East Division-leading Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
That result, combined the with Crunch’s 5-2 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane, tightened up an already tight race for top spot.
Despite the loss, the Gold Miners (28-13-2-2) hold a three point lead on the Lumberjacks (26-15-4-1), who sit one point ahead of the Crunch (26-17-1-3), who lead the Rock (26-15-3-0) by a single point.
The Rock have one game in hand on Kirkland Lake, two games in hand on Hearst and three games in hand on Cochrane.
And let’s not forget about the fifth-place Powassan Voodoos (25-18-1-1) who trail the Rock by three points, although Timmins has a game in hand. They thumped the French River Rapids 8-2 Friday night for their third-straight win.
At the McIntyre Arena, the first Rock shooter in overtime, captain Derek Seguin, buried the shootout’s first attempt behind Gold Miners goalie Dawson Rodin.
The first Gold Miners shooter, Noah Cauchi, was denied by Rock goaltender Tyler Masternak.
The next round of shooters saw Rock forward Keegan McMullen and Gold Miners sniper Colin Cromie denied.
Then, after Rock forward Josh Dickson failed to score at the start of Round 3, it all came down to the final attempt by Gold Miners forward Matthew Brassard.
If he scored, the shootout would continue but Masternak — who has yet to yield a shootout goal this season — denied the attempt to give the home side the victory.
Describing the shootout’s lone goal, Seguin said, “I just went down and saw what he gave me.
“He came out far to the left, so I thought going to the right side was kind of the move and put it just over his pad.”
The captain didn’t think his goal would be the one scored during the shootout.
“I kind of expected McMullen and Dickson to help out a little bit,” Seguin said.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way, but thankfully we had Masty back between the pipes to stop all of their shots. We actually haven’t been scored on in the shootout yet this year.
“So, if we are not scoring we can just go all night and Masty will stop every single shot. That is kind of reassuring for our shooters.”
Given that Masternak leads the NOJHL in minutes played, wins, shutouts and goals against average, his success in the shootout shouldn’t be too shocking.
“I just try to stay square to the puck,” he said.
“Shootouts are my thing. I am an athletic goalie and I kind of like them. I just have to hang in there and do my thing.”
Once Seguin gave the Rock the early advantage in the shootout, Masternak was confident he could make that goal stand up.
“I had a good feeling as soon as Segs buried that one,” he said.
“That was a big goal and I knew I was going to have to shut the door the rest of the way to get us the win.”
With the victory, the Rock remain the only NOJHL team that has yet to taste defeat in a shootout this season.
The Rock got on the scoreboard first Friday night when Riley Robitaille scored his eighth goal of the season just past the midway point of the opening period. That marker held up until late in the middle frame when the Rock were able to increase their advantage to 2-0.
With just 2:25 remaining in the period, blue-liner Gregory Arnburg scored his first goal in a Rock uniform.
It appeared the home side would carry that two-goal advantage into the second intermission, but the Gold Miners got on the 45 seconds later, with Cromie netting his fourth goal of the season.
The Rock restored their two-goal lead at the 2:52 mark of the third period when blue-liner Carson Burlington scored his second goal of the season to make it a 3-1 hockey game.
Penalty trouble contributed to the Rock’s inability to hold onto that two-goal advantage as the period progressed.
Seguin was sent off for roughing at the 4:07 mark and while the Rock were able to kill off that infraction, the Gold Miners scored five seconds after he stepped out of the penalty box.
Aiden Wagner netted that goal, his 10th of the season, as the Gold Miners cut the Rock lead to 3-2.
Then, just over 10 minutes later, with one of the Rock’s best penalty killers, A.J. Campbell in the sin bin for hooking, Sam Ellwood notched a power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season to deadlock the contest at 3-3.
The Rock had a golden opportunity to end the game in overtime, when Brassard was sent off for hooking, but the Gold Miners were able to kill off the penalty and send the contest to a shootout.
Rock coach Corey Beer was happy to see his squad earn its third-straight win, even though they let a division rival salvage a single point.
“They are a first-place team and we are trying to chase them, but it is not something we are going to dwell on,” he said.
“We are just happy to get the extra point against these guys. They are a top team.”
There is no big secret to why the Rock are having success against the Gold Miners that eluded them earlier in the season.
“I love our transition right now,” Beer said.
“It has been good. It has been fast and we have gotten a lot of good entries with our guys. We are getting a lot of good offensive zone chances.
“We have kind of turned ourselves into a bit of an on-the-rush team. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you can manage the puck at certain points.
“We really understand the key to our game is clean breakouts, fast transitions and good entries into the offensive zone. We did that pretty good tonight.”
The only real negative for the Rock during Friday night’s game were the penalties they took in the third period while they were trying to protect a lead.
“They were very poor choices by two of our leaders, our captain and one of our assistant captains,” Beer said.
“They took a couple of dumb penalties and that will be picked up on video, for sure.”
The coach felt having Seguin shoot first was a no-brainer for his squad.
“You would be kicking yourself if you didn’t send him out there in your first two shooters,” Beer said.
“Then, you would be sitting there and you might not even get to him if he was the third shooter. Segs is the kind of guy you can lean on in any situation. Having him shoot first in the shootout sets the tone. It can go either way. It can backfire on you and you are chasing it the whole time or it can put you out in front of it.
“We try to play a game that is high paced, with a lot of offence in it and a lot of structure everywhere. If we can get out to a quick lead in a game, we will do it. I think the shootout is the exact same thing. If you can put one in, it puts them on their heels a little bit.”
The coach was impressed with the effort he saw from a lot of his Rock players Friday night.
“I really liked Keegan McMullen’s game,” Beer said.
“He and Riley Robitaille were lights out. They started on different lines, but we put the big unit (McMullen, Seguin and Robitaille) back together and I thought those two guys were sensational.
“Robi is an absolute horse on the forecheck and he is dominant on the puck and creative. I love the fact for the longest time he has been this hard, forechecking, physical guy, but you look at the skill he has now and it’s unbelievable.
“He has turned himself into a power forward who has so much skill. It’s great to see. He and McMullen were just buzzing around there.
“I thought Darcy Haupt getting back in the lineup tonight supplied some good offence on entries and made the safe plays in the D-zone.
“What more can you say about Eric Moreau. He erases guys at our blue-line and he is a great penalty killer. He keeps getting better game by game.
“I thought our defence, as a group, was very good tonight, to be honest. Hopefully, we can build from the momentum of tonight’s game.”
Masternak, who turned aside 26 of the 29 shots he faced, earned his NOJHL-leading 23rd win of the season.
Rodin, who stopped 28 of the 31 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Seguin, Gold Miners forward Alex Elie (two assists) and Arnburg … The Rock did not dress forwards Tyler Hutchinson (undisclosed) and Benjamin Jossinet (undisclosed) … The Rock went 0-2 with the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 918.