KIRKLAND LAKE — Tyler Masternak stopped all 23 shots he faced to backstop the Timmins Rock to a 4-0 victory over the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Wednesday night.
The Oshawa native’s NOJHL-leading sixth shutout of the season helped the Rock (34-7-1-1) maintain a share of top spot atop the overall standings with the Voodoos (35-7-0-0) — who earned a 10-0 home-ice victory over the French River Rapids at the Powassan Sportsplex.
Rock coach Corey Beer was happy with the result, especially after his squad had beaten the Gold Miners 10-1 in their most recent meeting at the McIntyre Arena on Jan. 18
“It was good from a possession standpoint,” he said.
“I thought we managed the puck really well tonight. Our defencemen were good on their transitions and their breakouts and the forwards managed the puck really well in the offensive zone. We got a lot of movement and shots from inside the house.”
The Gold Miners attempted to lay on the body Wednesday night in hopes of slowing down the Rock, but the hits — some of them big — did not really cause the visitors to deviate from their game plan.
“Admittedly, we are a speed team and we want to play with skill,” Beer said.
“If teams want to play physical with us, we are going to have to prove we can move the puck faster and I think it was evident early on when they were trying to play the body and as the game wore on you are not as physically engaged when you get tired.
“If you are chasing the other team the whole night, there is no way you can throw hits. They might have outhit us, but had the puck all night.”
The Rock, who outshot the Gold Miners 13-9 in the opening frame, took a 1-0 lead on Josh Dickson’s team-leading 21st goal of the season — a marker that would stand up to be the game-winner.
That tally was the lone goal during the period and the Rock took a 1-0 advantage to the dressing room for the first intermission.
A pair of second-period markers allowed the Rock to push their lead to 3-0.
Tyler Schwindt netted the first of those two goals when he collected his 13th tally of the season at the 6:19 mark.
Then, 16-year-old forward Cameron Kosurko — who picked up an assist on Schwindt’s tally — netted his eighth goal of the season with less than two minutes remaining in the frame.
“Our line was working really well tonight,” he said.
“It was the first time in a while I had played with those two (Schwindt and ). I think we really clicked and got our feet moving early.
“We did all the little things correctly and managed to put a few pucks in the back of the net.”
Now 42 games into his Junior ‘A’ career, Kosurko is “feeling comfortable” in a Rock uniform.
“I have got some games under my belt and I am feeling good out there now,” he said.
“Things have been working out pretty well.”
The Uxbridge native knows the coaching staff would like him to shoot the puck more frequently and he has been trying to do just that.
“Obviously, I want to make the best play out there on the ice, but if I have an option to shoot, I am going to do that more often,” Kosurko said.
Captain Derek Seguin closed out the scoring when he collected his 20th goal of the season at the 5:12 mark of the third period to make the final 4-0 in favour of the visitors.
Beer was pleased with the effort put forth by his “1A line (Seguin, Dickson and Gabinien Kioki)” Wednesday night.
“Those three players showed some good chemistry,” he said.
“It is amazing what bringing No. 91 (Seguin) back into the fold can do for your club and your line structure.
“Admittedly, he wasn’t great on the puck, handling it, at some points, but his pressure and his active stick, the way he drives the play was great.
“The other two feed off of him so well and that line was great for all the shifts they got out there tonight.
“He practised the other day and it didn’t look like there was too much rust out there tonight. He is a special player and a special person.”
The Rock coach was also impressed by the play of Kosurko, one of the youngest players in the lineup.
“He is certainly putting himself in some good offensive opportunities, so I hope when he reads this he will start shooting more,” Beer said.
“He is great on the forecheck and he has such a good active stick. He anticipates the play really well and he is becoming better and better at playing multiple positions up front, centre, wing, weak side, whatever it is.
“You can see the trajectory he is on and what kind of player he is going to be long term. Right now, he is really earning all the minutes he is getting.”
While Masternak was not overly busy Wednesday night, he made three or four big saves in the final five minutes of the contest to preserve the shutout.
“He swallowed up a couple of shots and didn’t give up any rebound chances,” Beer said.
“If there was one, he would knife the puck into the corner. That is a key. I know for Masty and Vance (Meyer), limiting rebound chances is huge — especially with the way we play.
“Let’s get a face-off. Let’s regroup. Let’s try and get possession of the puck.
“It was another great performance by a guy who continues to rewrite the record books.”
Beer also had a little extra praise for a couple of players who might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
“(Affiliate player) Landon Deforge played a great game,” he said.
“That whole line, with him, Schwindt and Zach Smith really did some good things, generating speed down low and winning puck battles.
“That is something we stressed after the weekend. We weren’t winning enough puck battles in Powassan or French River.
“Tonight, those three won a lot of puck battles and that was huge for us.
“Another guy on the back end, Eric Moreau, keeps good gaps. Zach Fortin keeps good gaps. (Aidan) Milne, (Evan) Beaudry and (Brendan) Boyce … Josh Anderson gets a lot of the accolades because he can do some fantastic things with his feet. There was one play, the puck turns over in our zone and he was gone.
“Nobody can skate like him, but I thought the other five guys just did a really good job of playing stable defence and I think that is a big byproduct of why we have been so good away from the puck and in transition.”
Masternak, who added to his NOJHL career record shutout total with No. 14 and tied the single-season record he set during the 2018-19 campaign, earned his 21st win of the season in the contest.
Gold Miners netminder Kohl Reddy, who turned aside 39 of the 43 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Masternak, Kosurko and Reddy … Both the Rock and the Gold Miners went 0-1 on the power play … Official attendance at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 289 … In addition to the Voodoos blanking the Rapids 10-0 in Powassan, the only other action saw the Thunderbirds top the Elliot Lake Wildcats 7-0 in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock will return to action with a home-and-home series with the Crunch. The two sides will tangle at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane Friday night and then meet at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.