By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock will be looking to gain a little revenge on a division rival and put an end to their current two-game losing skid when they host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
Rock fans, players and the coaching staff have still not forgotten the 5-4 last-second loss the home side suffered during the Voodoos last visit to the McIntyre Arena on Oct. 24.
The home side appeared destined to pick up at least a point — if not two — as the final seconds ticked off the clock, but Jake Staples’ power-play marker with less than a second remaining destroyed that dream and sent 589 fans home with a bitter taste in their mouths.
“We need a little redemption for that one,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“When you lose like that with less than one second left and you get a suspension over it, it leaves a little bit of a bad taste in our mouths.”
Rock forward Tristan Salesse picked up a three-game suspension after picking up an abuse of officials infraction following Staples’ game-winning goal.
Coincidentally, Saturday night will be Salesse’s first game back in the Rock lineup after serving a seven-game suspension he picked up following the Rock’s 3-0 win over the Eagles in Sault, Mich., back on Dec. 18.
Goalie Logan Ferrington, injured during the Rock’s 6-3 win over the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour on Jan. 2, is expected to return to the lineup Saturday night, as well, although Gagne was not about to indicated which of his three netminders would get the start.
The second meeting between the Rock and the Voodoos at Powassan Sportsplex on Nov. 13 proved just as frustrating for the Timmins squad and its fans.
Despite outshooting the Voodoos 52-37, the Rock dropped a 5-1 decision to their NOJHL East Division rivals.
“We had incredible opportunities to score and we didn’t capitalize,” Gagne said.
Ryan Theriault was the only Rock player to get a puck past Voodoos goalie Garrett Forrest in that contest.
Matthew Nixon, the healthier of the Rock’s two injured goalies at the time, turned aside 33 of the 37 shots he faced.
“We played well enough to win that game even though it might not seem like it with us losing 5-1, but we were in it,” Gagne said.
“There were just a couple of bad bounces that led to goals and we can’t blame the goalie, because he was injured.”
The Voodoos, who currently sit second in the NOJHL’s East Division with a record of 34, 25-6-2-1, 53 are six points ahead of the fourth-place Rock, 39, 23-15-0-1, 47, and they have five games in hand.
Even without Steve Harland (15, 10-18-28, 2), who is currently with the North Bay Battalion, of the OHL, the Voodoos have plenty of offence.
Tyler Peters (34, 23-29-52, 34), Staples (34, 17-24-41, 2), Michael Silveri (25, 18-19-37, 18), Eric Champagne (33, 12-21-33, 14) and Nathaniel McLeod (29, 14-16-30 , 16) have all demonstrated an ability to put the puck in the net.
Nicky Grose (34, 8-18-26, 12) has also shown an ability to help out in the offensive zone from his blue-line position.
Voodoos coach Scott Wray feels his goaltending tandem of Forrest (1,384:00, 15-6-1-0, 2, 2.43, .932) and Mario Cavaliere (689:00, 10-2-0-0, 0, 3.13, .905) is the best in the NOJHL and while the statistics may not back that boast, the duo has certainly been far more than adequate this season.
Having lost two games in a row — 6-3 to the Iroquois Falls Eskis on home ice Sunday and 5-3 to the Crunch in Cochrane Saturday night — the Rock are hoping to return to the win column Saturday night.
“All week, we have been working on details, details, details, with our program,” Gagne said.
“I am hoping we are going to bring it all on the table tomorrow (Saturday) night.”
As Gagne is fond of saying, the Rock will have to bring their A game if they hope to earn their first win against the Voodoos this season.
“During practice, we have been trying to master our program,” he said.
“We have been letting it go a little bit. You always have to tweak it a little bit. You want to advance some different plays and what not, but you have to come back to our bread and butter.
“We are going to simplify things for tomorrow (Saturday) and make sure we play our game, our A game.”
Fans will get their first look at forward Landen Matechuk (24, 15-18-33, 30) in a Rock uniform Saturday night.
Matechuk was acquired from the English River Miners, of the SIJHL, prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“He is a great skater who has a lot of skills for a power forward,” Gagne said.
“He has a great shot and from practice you can see he really competes. His effort is incredible.
“I am looking forward to seeing him play against a good team.”
Matechuk is expected to play on one of the Rock’s Top 2 lines, but Gagne would not divulge which unit — Salesse (28, 22-29-51 12), Aaron Kerr (10, 10-8-18, 2) and Ryan Theriault (33, 16-20-36, 30); or Zachary Kercz (38, 20-44-64, 66), Jordan Rendle (36, 25-25-50, 40 and Bain Cunningham (38, 19-21-40, 34) — the newcomer will be joining or who from that unit will be bumped to the third line.
“They are in town, they are going to read the paper,” he said. “They are going to know the lines and such, but let them do the work to find out what are lines are and to match them.”
Regardless of who plays on what line, the Rock lineup will be stronger following the addition of the 20-year-old Matechuk.
“It will strengthen our third line, for sure, and there will be third liners who will be playing on the fourth line now,” he said.
“It definitely improves our club. To improve as a team, players have to sacrifice sometimes. You have to play the roll you are in, get your ice time and play hard.
Our No. 1 objective here is to have a winning team. Individuals are great, but it is all about the team.”
The Rock will be without defenceman Joe Olson, who will be serving the second game of the two-game suspension he picked up for getting involved in a second fight during the same stoppage of play Saturday night in Cochrane, and forward Wayne Mathieu, who has an upper-body injury.
Game time for Saturday’s contest is 7:30 p.m.