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Rock knock off Gold Miners

Timmins Rock forward Christopher Engelbert, right, celebrates the first of his two second-period goals during Friday night’s 2021-22 NOJHL regular season opener at the McIntyre Arena. It was the first NOJHL goal for Engelbert, acquired by the Rock from the OJHL’s Cobourg Cougars on Tuesday. His second of the night was the game winner as the Rock went on to post a 7-3 victory over the visiting Kirkland Lake Gold Miners. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock got two goals each from new captain Tyler Schwindt and newcomer Christopher Engelbert en route to a 7-3 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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It was the 2021-22 NOJHL regular-season opener for both East Division squads.

Schwindt, a 20-year-old New Hamburg, Ont., native, was quick to credit those who came before him when discussing his new leadership role with the Rock.

“It is a great honour,” he said.

“All the leaders we have had since I have been here, guys like (Josh) Anderson, (Eric) Moreau, (Derek Seguin) Segs, (Riley Robitaille) Robie, all those guys were great leaders and they paved the way not only for me, but for a bunch of guys in that room.”

The line of Schwindt (two goals), Nicolas Pigeon (three assists) and Henry Brock was a force for the Rock from the opening puck drop to the final buzzer.

“Nic and Henry are great players, but it really came down to a full team effort tonight,” Schwindt said.

“Everyone was chipping in and it is a great group of guys.”

The captain and his teammates were happy to deliver coach and general manager Brandon Perry’s first NOJHL win in his first regular season game behind the bench.

“He has really been working hard and he just wants the best for us,” Schwindt said.

“He wants us all to succeed and keep playing hockey after Junior ‘A,’ so it was great to get him the win.”

The Rock never trailed in the contest that saw them outshoot the Gold Miners 36-11.

Blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz got the Rock on the scoresheet first, when he drilled a wrist shot past Kirkland Lake goalie Zachary Reddy from the point just 2:58 into the contest.

Just over three minutes later the Gold Miners got back on even terms as Ian McDonald scored his first goal of the season to make it a 1-1 hockey game.

It took the Rock just 11 seconds to regain their one-goal advantage, however, as Schwindt struck for his first goal of the night.

The Rock took a 2-1 advantage into the first intermission, but the Gold Miners were once again able to tie things up when Mark Quesnel scoed his first goal of the season at the 2:56 mark of the middle frame.

Engelbert, who was acquired from the OJHL’s Cobourg Cougars in exchange for a player development fee on Tuesday, then put the Rock back in front when he netted a power-play marker 11 minutes later.

Then, with 2:15 remaining in the period Engelbert scored his second goal of the night to extend the Rock lead to 4-2.

The Rock carried that two-goal advantage into the third period and then expanded it to 5-2 when Schwindt added his second goal of the night, with the home side on the power play, less than two minutes into the frame.

A John Paul Scaringi goal, his first of the season, pulled the Gold Miners back to within a pair of goals just over six minutes later.

The Rock kept pressing the attack, however, and Riley Brousseau’s first goal of the season, another power-play effort, extended the lead to 6-3 with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining.

Liam Wells then added his first goal of the season, the Rock’s fourth power-play marker of the night, to close out the scoring and make the final 7-3 in favour of the home side.

Perry, who spent a number of years coaching the GNML’s Timmins Majors, was obviously happy to see his squad perform so well in his NOJHL debut.

“All day I was just a little nervous,” he said.

“You are always in your own head. Did we prepare enough? Did we do enough this week? Are we ready?

“But it was great to start off on the right foot.”

One of the keys for the Rock Friday night was attacking as a five-man unit.

“That’s the identity of our team,” Perry said.

“We want all five guys involved in the offence. We want defencemen who like to play with the puck and get involved.

“When we were recruiting, we were looking for four lines that can roll, four lines that can skate and four lines that can score.

“I think that was on display tonight.”

The Rock kept things simple when it came to preparing for Friday night’s home opener.

“We just wanted to focus on things we can control, doing the things we do well, having some discipline in our structure,” Perry said.

“A lot of the focus was on us tonight, especially since there is not so much video out there on the teams we are playing yet because it is early in the season.

“So, we just wanted to make sure we were structurally sound and our effort and compete levels were at an all-time high.”

Those were things coach and general manager Kyle Smart didn’t see much of from his Gold Miners.

“I think the only positives we have right now are realizing we still have a lot of hockey left to play this year,” he said.

“You can’t beat yourself up early in the season over a couple of losses. There is a lot of talent on the team. We just need to bring it together and be a little bit more disciplined overall, as a team.”

The McIntyre Arena can be a challenging building for visiting teams to play in at the best of times, maybe even more so when the home side is looking to impress a new coach and welcome back their enthusiastic fans.

“Respect to the team and their players,” Smart said.

“They showed up for their home opener and they did what they had to do for their fan base.

“(Rock) players fighting for spots wanted to make it difficult. My guys tonight were unfortunately making decisions a little easier for me than I am sure Timmins has to make.”

Lack of consistency was likely the biggest downfall for the Gold Miners Friday night.

“There were moments, but they were probably few and far between, but every player at some point in time did contribute in a positive way,” Smart said.

“Unfortunately, there are 60 minutes in a hockey game and we can’t accept two or three minutes of sporadic acceptable hockey from individuals.”

Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy stopped eight of the 11 shots he faced to pick up his first victory of the season.

Ruddy, who turned aside 29 of the 36 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Schwindt, Dutkiewicz and Engelbert … The Rock went 4-6 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-2 with the man advantage … Attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 536 … Friday’s other action saw the Powassan Voodoos double up the Rapids 4-2 in French River and the Elliot Lake Red Wings down the Express 4-1 in Espanola … The Rock will host the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m.