Rock host Rapids Thursday, Friday

Timmins Rock forward Nicolas Pigeon deflects a shot in front of French River Rapids goalie Cole Sheffield during an NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena on Oct. 10. The Rock will welcome the Rapids to the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 7 p.m., for Game 1 of their best-of-seven East Division semifinal series. Game 2 will also be played at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock will begin what they hope will be a lengthy playoff run when they welcome the French River Rapids to the McIntyre Arena on Thursday, at 7 p.m.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

With the Rapids (23-24-1-0), who finished fourth in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — 26 points behind the first-place Rock (33-8-5-2) — having completed a sweep of their best-of-three play-in series by beating the Gold Miners 5-2 in Kirkland Lake Monday night, the puck is set to drop on the best-of-seven semifinal series.

The East Division’s other best-of-seven semifinal series will also get underway Thursday night, with the second-place Hearst Lumberjacks (35-11-2-0) hosting the third-place Powassan Voodoos (30-11-6-1).

While a 26-point difference in the standings might suggest this will be a one-sided series, it is important to remember the two teams split the six games they played against each other this season.

The Rock took two of the three games played at the McIntyre Arena, 4-3 on Oct. 10 and 3-2 on Nov. 26, with the Rapids winning 4-3 on Dec. 3.

At the Noelville Community Centre, the Rock beat the Rapids 5-2 on Oct. 22, but lost the next two encounters 4-2 on Nov. 6 and 6-4 on March 27.

Total goals for and against for each team in those six contests, 21-21.

So, does this mean we are looking at a series that is going to go the full seven games?


If there is an area that might have Rock fans feeling a little uneasy heading into this series it is the record of the two teams in games decided by either overtime or a shootout.

During the regular season, the Rock were 2-5 in overtime and 0-2 in shootouts, while the Rapids were 3-1 in overtime and 3-0 in shootouts.

There are, of course, no shootouts to worry about during the playoffs, but clearly Rock fans will be hoping their squad can avoid overtime in the series.

Let’s break things down a little farther.

In their last 10 games of the regular season, the Rock went 6-1-2-1, while the Rapids were 4-6-0-0. Of course you can add two victories to the Rapids totals, courtesy of their series with the Gold Miners.

In terms of home record, the Rock went 17-4-3-0 at the McIntyre Arena, while the Rapids were 13-11-0-0 at the Noelville Community Centre.

On the road, the Rock went 16-4-2-0 on the season, while the Rapids were 10-13-1-0.

In terms of offence, the Rock scored 225 goals during the regular season — most in the NOJHL — while the Rapids, with 197, were third.

Individually, the Rock had nine snipers — captain Tyler Schwindt (48, 34-30-64, 36), Riley Brousseau (48, 19-38-57, 12), blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz (45, 18-25-43, 39), Christopher Engelbert (44, 17-22-39, 13), Tyler Gilberds (43, 16-21-37, 50), Henry Brock (43, 15-19-34, 28), Liam Wells (46, 13-10-23, 45), Nicolas Pigeon (38, 12-35-47, 23) and Justin Charette (47, 11-13-24, 2) — who cracked the 10-goal plateau during the regular season.

And three others — Harry Clark (13, 9-8-17, 8), Nicholas Frederick (33, 9-15-24, 16) and Nolan Ring (34, 9-13-22, 16) — who just missed the mark.

By comparison, the Rapids only had six skaters — Dominik Godin (47, 35-17-52, 27), Chase Lefebvre (46, 29-37-66, 22), Cooper Bowman (44, 25-31-56, 16), Levi Siau (42, 19-37-56, 14), Spencer Hughes (48, 15-23-38, 10) and Spencer Borg (46, 10-20-30, 18) — match that level of production.

Like the Rock, the Rapids had three skaters — Leo Chambers (30, 9-19-28, 16), Chase Thompson (46, 9-12-21, 32) and Ryan Goral (15, 9-10-19, 30) — come up one goal short.

During their two-game play-in sweep of the Gold Miners, the Rapids got two goals each from Godin, Lefebvre and Devon Butler (17, 1-2-3, 16), while Abram Snider (39, 4-4-8, 8) dished out three assists during the two games to lead the team in scoring.

Defensively, the Rock allowed the second-fewest goals, 124, trailing only the Soo Thunderbirds (101), while the Rapids allowed the ninth-fewest (196).

There is more to team defensive accomplishments than just goaltending, but it is hard to argue with the success achieved by the Rock duo of Gavin McCarthy (2,300:00, 23-8-5-2, 3, 2.53, .902) and Konrad Simard (600:00, 10-0-0-0, 2, 2.10, .902) this season.

The Rapids, meanwhile, have three goalies on the roster who have seen action this season, although Cole Sheffield (1,714:00, 13-15-1-0, 0, 3.75, .904) is clearly their No. 1 puck stopper.

Justin Dilauro (570:00, 4-5-0-0, 0, 3.90, .899) and Brady Dyer (147:00, 0-2-0-0, 0, 5.73, .867) are the Rapids other options in net.

Sheffield (38 saves, 39 shots) and Dilauro (43 saves, 45 shots) both saw action during the two-game play-in sweep of the Gold Miners.

Special teams are always important, but never more so than during a playoff series.

The Rock employed the NOJHL’s third-best power play in 2021-22, operating at a 22.8 per cent efficiency rating, while the Rapids were sixth-best with the man advantage, at 18.3 per cent.

No team allowed more shorthanded goals against than the 11 the Rapids surrendered during the regular season, while the Rock were scored on just three times while they were on the power play.

The two teams had almost identical statistics on the penalty kill, with the No. 6 Rock enjoying an 81.5 per cent success rate and the No. 7 Rapids 81.3 per cent.

With seven shorthanded goals to their credit, the Rapids were slightly more dangerous while killing penalties than the Rock, who had five on the season.

When it comes to staying out of the penalty box, both the Rock (10th, 463 minutes) and the Rapids (11th, 435 minutes) were well disciplined during the regular season.

All things considered, you have to give the Rock a slight edge when looking at the overall special teams picture.

Game 2 in the series will be played at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7 p.m., with the focus shifting to the Noelville Community Centre for Game 3, on Sunday at 7 p.m., and Game 4, on Monday at 7 p.m.

If necessary, Game 5 would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday, April 13 at 7 p.m.

Game 6, if necessary would be played at the Noelville Community Centre on Good Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

A seventh and deciding contest, if necessary, would be played at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, April 17 at 7 p.m.