The Timmins Rock will be looking to close the gap on the NOJHL’s top team when they welcome the Powassan Voodoos to the McIntyre Arena on Friday for a 7 p.m. tilt.
Heading into the contest, the Voodoos sport a record of 24-4-0-0, good for 48 points — four more than the Rock (21-5-1-1), who hold down third place in the East Division standings.
It is worth noting, however, that not counting the outcome of Thursday night’s contest at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane — not available at press time — the Voodoos have actually lost three of their past four contest.
That has resulted in the Voodoos, who at one point held down top spot in the CJHL’s Top 20 rankings, falling to sixth place on the list.
Meanwhile, the Rock, who have picked up points in each of their two games with the Voodoos this season — a 4-3 shootout loss in Powassan on Oct. 19 and a 5-4 overtime setback at the McIntyre Arena on Sept. 15 — sit in 19th place on the list following back-to-back losses to the Hearst Lumberjacks on the weekend.
Those victories allowed the Lumberjacks to vault past the Rock in the East Division standings, but Timmins is just one point back, with five games in hand.
Rock coach Corey Beer is confident his squad has what it takes to knock off the Voodoos, allowing them to close the gap on the league leaders and once again move past the Lumberjacks.
“We played them two different ways in the first two games against them,” he said.
“The first game, we were really offensive-minded, jumping on stuff. We had about five bad minutes and it ended up costing us.
“The game in their building, we didn’t play the same way. We had a little bit more chip and chase, which maybe isn’t our style.
“We were coming back from one-goal deficits the whole way and stuff.
“The biggest thing is we know we can play with them. We are a good team and we are highly skilled, we can make plays and when it comes down to it, it’s the small details.
“It always is in these games. We just need to clean those small details up and take advantage of our opportunities.
“Sunday afternoon (against the Lumberjacks) we had some Grade A chances that we missed the net on and that just can’t happen.”
One of the keys to the Voodoos’ continued success this season has been the stellar play of goalie Owen Say (1,155:00, 17-2-0-0, 1, 2.23, .925).
The 2001-birth-year netminder has the fifth-best goals against average in the NOJHL and he ranks fourth in terms of saves percentage.
As Rock fans well know, of course, the Timmins puck-stopping duo of Tyler Masternak (902:00, 11-2-1-1, 4, 2.00, .919) and Vance Meyer (780:00, 10-3-0-0, 1.46, .932) have been just as impressive to this point in the 2019-20 NOJHL campaign.
The strong play of Meyer, a 2002-birth-year rookie netminder from Guelph, has allowed the Rock to ease the workload for Masternak, who has accumulated an NOJHL-record 12 shutouts during his three years in Timmins.
Offensively, the Voodoos have three players — Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (27, 17-29-46 , 32), Parker Bowman (27, 23-16-39, 33) and Sam Ellwood (28, 8-19-27, 10) — among the NOJHL’s top snipers.
The offensive efforts of that trio is augmented by the secondary scoring provided by forwards Cade Herd (24, 6-20-26, 23), Tomas Yachmenev (25, 14-10-24, 2), Ryan Mills (28, 7-17-24, 8), Seiji Martone (26, 4-17-21, 18) and Joe Whittet (22, 11-5-16, 15).
While the Rock (115) might not have scored as many goals as the Voodoos (132), who rank second in the NOJHL to the West Division-leading Rayside-Balfour Canadians (134), they are tied for fourth in terms of offensive production.
Leading the way are second-year forward Josh Dickson (27, 16-15-31, 28) and captain Derek Seguin (27, 17-12-29, 14) — both of whom are among the league’s Top 20 scorers.
Up front, the Rock have plenty of offensive support behind that dynamic duo, led by Karter Renouf (28, 14-8-22, 26), Riley Robitaille (28, 5-15-20, 31), David Laroche (17, 8-10-18, 4) and Tyler Gilberds (28, 10-7-17, 32).
Both the Voodoos and the Rock can count on offensive support from the back end, as well, with the Voodoos relying on Eric Mondoux (21, 2-16-18, 41), James Orr (26, 0-16-16, 16) and Jacob Peterson-Galema (28, 3-12-15, 8), while the Rock have received solid contributions from Josh Anderson (27, 6-17-23, 34), Owen Shier (27, 4-10-14, 16), Brendan Boyce (27, 2-12-14, 21) and Phil Caron (11, 3-6-9, 2).
The Voodoos will be without the services of Mondoux (serving the final game of a four-game suspension) Friday night, while newly acquired Rock blue-liner Quinn Schneidmiller (12, 1-9-10, 20) is expected to sit out the contest while nursing an upper-body injury.
“I am guessing Quinn will be back for the game in Kirkland Lake (Dec. 12), but there is an outside chance he could play against Powassan,” Beer said.
“It just depends on how much his upper-body progresses and if he can get himself back on track.”
The Rock coach knows it isn’t just offensive upside and leadership the 1988-birth-year Penticton, B.C., native brings to his team’s blue-line.
“Over the last couple of years, coaching against him, I could see he was a fierce competitor, who blocks shots, as well,” Beer said.
“He plays in guys faces, in addition to having that offensive moxy. He is a real good skater, too, and I think he is going to be a great addition for us.”
“He is a veteran guy who has been through the battles in this league and understands it.”
ROCK NOTES — Rock players will be on hand at Timmins High & Vocational School on Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., to assist with a fundraising car wash in support of the family of a student once again battling cancer. The event itself will run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. … The Rock will be bringing Ron James and Casey Corbin to town for their fourth-annual Comedy Show on Thursday, Feb. 13, at École secondaire catholique Thériault.