With just four games remaining on their 2019-20 regular-season schedule, the Timmins Rock realize their chances of finishing atop the NOJHL’s overall standing are slim, at best.
Still, a victory over the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Friday night would allow the Rock at least temporarily regain top spot in the league — a position that brings with it home-ice advantage throughout the 2020 playoffs.
Including Friday night’s match-up against the Voodoos, the Rock have two home games remaining on their schedule, the other being a date with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Wednesday.
They also have a pair of road games remaining, against the Lumberjacks in Hearst Saturday night and against the Crunch in Cochrane on Thursday, Feb. 27.
Meanwhile, after taking on the Rock at the McIntyre Arena Friday night, the Voodoos will continue on their three-game weekend road swing with games against the Crunch in Cochrane Saturday night and against the Lumberjacks in Hearst on Sunday afternoon.
They will then finish up their 2019-20 regular-season schedule with three-straight home games — against the Lumberjacks on Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, Feb. 29, and the Espanola Express on Sunday, March 1.
So, even if the Rock win all four of their remaining contests, they will need a little help from their frenemies.
This will be the Voodoos fourth visit to the McIntyre Arena this season, with Powassan having a pair of wins in the first three contests, 5-4 in overtime on Sept. 15 and 3-2 on Feb. 6, and one loss, 4-1 on Dec. 6.
Results were similar in the four games the Rock have played in Powassan this season, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Voodoos on Oct. 19, a 1-0 setback on Jan. 25, a 3-1 loss on Feb. 14 and a 4-1 win on Jan. 11.
Heading into Friday night’s contest, the Voodoos (41-8-1-0) hold a one-point advantage on the Rock (40-10-1-1).
While it remains to be seen which team — the Voodoos or the Rock — will finish atop the NOJHL’s overall standings, Timmins is all but assured of having the best defensive record in the league.
The Rock have allowed just 87 goals through 52 regular-season contests, while the Voodoos — owners of the second-best defensive record in the NOJHL — have allowed 124 goals through 50 games this season.
In order for the Voodoos to overtake the Rock in that department Timmins would have to give up close to 10 goals per game in its remaining four contests, while Powassan would have to be nearly perfect in its final six games.
The Rock are not expected to have No. 1A puck stopper Tyler Masternak (upper-body injury) in uniform for Friday night’s contest.
Normally that would be a huge disadvantage for any team, but as good as Masternak (1,882:00, 24-6-1-1, 8, 1.66, .932) has been this season, Option 1B, Vance Meyer (1,233:00, 16-4-0-0, 4, 1.56, .928), has almost matched his creasemate save-for-save in 2019-20.
They rank No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of goals against average and No. 2 and No. 4 in terms of saves percentage.
The Voodoos duo of Owen Say (1,809:00, 28-2-0-0, 3, 1.96, .939) and Christian Cicigoi (412:00, 4-2-1-0, 0, 3.78, .898) have been pretty impressive, as well.
Cicigoi’s stats might not look all that impressive, but he spent part of this season with the OHL’s North Bay Battalion.
Offensively, the Voodoos and the West Division’s Rayside-Balfour Canadians have each scored 239 goals this season, but the Rock — with 217 — are right behind in third place.
The Voodoos have three players — captain Parker Bowman (49, 36-47-83, 73), Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (45, 32-51-83, 53) and Tomas Yachmenev (47, 28-28-56, 4) — in the Top 5 in the NOJHL scoring race, but nobody is going to catch Blind River Beavers sniper Caleb Serre (51, 46-58-104, 38).
Powassan also has one other player, Seiji Martone (48, 15-36-51, 28), among the NOJHL’s Top 20 scorers.
The Rock’s leading scorer, Josh Dickson (51, 26-29-55, 56) currently sits in seventh place among the NOJHL’s leading scorers, while captain Derek Seguin (42, 25-26-51, 22), who has missed 10 games this season, is 12th and Stewart Parnell (46, 22-25-47, 25) is tied for 19th.
Both the Rock and the Voodoos get plenty of offensive support from their blue-lines, as well.
Rock D-man Josh Anderson (51, 11-35-46, 56) currently sits third among blue-liners in the NOJHL in terms of production, trailing only Mattias Salem (51, 16-45-61, 34), of the Espanola Express, and Nathan Balkwill (50, 6-44-50, 110), of the Beavers.
Voodoos blue-liner Eric Mondoux (39, 7-30-37, 79) is right behind Anderson and teammate Jacob Peterson-Galema (50, 6-24-30, 8) is also among the NOJHL’s Top 10 offensive D-men.
In a close contest between two evenly matched teams, the success or failure of special teams often determines the outcome.
With an efficiency of 26.0 per cent, the Voodoos have the top power play in the NOJHL, while the Rock, at 19.5 per cent, are fourth.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Rock boast the NOJHL’s best penalty kill, operating with an efficiency rating of 89.1 per cent.
The Voodoos, meanwhile, have a penalty killing efficiency of 81.0 per cent — seventh best in the league.
Powassan is the third-most dangerous team in the NOJHL playing shorthanded with nine goals on the season and they have allowed opponents to score just nine while they have been on the power play.
The Rock have five shorthanded goals on the campaign and have also allowed opponents to score five shorthanded markers while they have been on the power play.
One area where the Rock are clearly king when it comes to the NOJHL is at the box office.
They are averaging 907 fans per game to this point in the season and team officials are hoping to see even more fans pack the McIntyre Arena for Friday’s contest, at 7:30 p.m.
NOJHL NOTES — Round 1 of the playoffs will see the No. 4 seed in each division play the No. 5 seed, in a best-of-three series. In the East Division, that will see either the Crunch or the Lumberjacks take on the Gold Miners. In the West Division, it will be either the Soo Eagles or Soo Thunderbirds meeting the Express … This week’s CJHL Top 20 rankings has the Voodoos remaining in seventh place, the Rock moving up to No. 12 from No. 13 and the Canadians moving up to No. 17 from honourable mention … The NOJHL’s Eastlink TV Three Stars of the Week are Bowman, Gold Miners forward Casey Gerstein and Canadians forward Mitchell Martin.