Rock host Miners Wednesday

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock will look to regain their winning ways when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena.

It will be the seventh meeting of the season for the two NOJHL rivals who have split their first six games this season, with each team sporting a record of 1-1-0-1 in the other’s rink.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

The two teams have not met since the Rock posted a 3-2 win at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake back on Dec. 14.

They were scheduled to meet at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex on Jan. 6, but that game had to be postponed because of high levels of carbon monoxide in the arena.

The Gold Miners last visited the McIntyre Arena on Dec. 5, with the visitors skating off with a 3-1 win thanks to Tyler Fyfe’ three-point (two goals and an assist) game.

Heading into Wednesday night’s contest, the Gold Miners (19-15-6-4) are firmly entrenched in third place in the East Division standings, nine points behind the Cochrane Crunch (27-14-2-1) and nine points ahead of the Hearst Lumberjacks (18-20-2-1).

Meanwhile, the Rock (15-23-2-2) are fifth in the division, five points back of the Lumberjacks, who still have a game in hand, and seven points ahead of the last-place French River Rapids.

With only 14 games remaining in their regular season, the Rock need to make a concerted effort the catch the Lumberjacks, while keeping an eye on the Rapids in their rear-view mirror.

If the playoffs were to begin today, the Rock would face the Lumberjacks in a best-of-three play-in series — with Hearst currently holding home-ice advantage.

Given that neither team has played well in the other’s building — or on the road in general — home-ice could well be a deciding factor in a short series.

The Rock have done a solid job of keeping the Gold Miners’ offence in check so far this season and that trend will have to continue Wednesday night, as Fyfe (44, 27-24-51, 20) Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (41, 24-27-51, 36) and Marshal Nikitin (38, 20-26-46, 37) can be lethal when given time and space with the puck.

Overall, the Rock have struggled to put the puck in the net this season, but they have actually outscored the Gold Miners 15-14 in the first six games of their series.

After getting off to a slow start with his home town club, Jordan Picard (43, 9-20-29, 40) is rounding into form.

The same can be said for C.J. Bradburn (31, 11-12-23, 22), who has been one of the Rock’s best players in the second half of the season.

Wayne Mathieu (41, 9-17-26, 24), Derek Seguin (29, 7-14-21, 47) and Tyler Gilberds (40, 9-11-20, 50) are offensive weapons the Rock can usually count on, as well.

And the offence should get a boost when Stewart Parnell (22, 9-8-17, 10) returns from his upper-body injury.

Defensively, the Rock have allowed fewer goals than the Gold Miners so far this season — thanks in part to the strong play of goalies Eric Jackson (1643:00, 10-14-2-1, 0, 2.81, .901) and Tyler Masternak (731:00, 5-5-0-1, 1, 2.54, .912).

Jackson has scuffled a little bit since the Christmas break, but that might have something to do with the fact he has already played almost as many minutes this season as he had in the previous three campaigns combined.

The Gold Miners, meanwhile, have also received solid goaltending from their duo of Ryan Winter (1519:00, 13-10-3-0, 3, 2.65, .922) and Cade McEwen (1092:00, 6-4-3-4, 0, 3.19, .909).

Wednesday’s game at the McIntyre Arena is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.