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POWASSAN — Stellar goaltending and outstanding special teams work combined to propel the Timmins Rock to a 4-1 win over the Voodoos at the Sportsplex Wednesday night.
It was the ninth-straight win for the Rock (33-11-2-0) who saw their lead over the Voodoos (26-16-0-2) increase to 14 points — although Powassan has two games in hand.
Patrick Boivin, who led the Rock to an NOJHL championship and a berth into the Centennial Cup last season, is clearly rounding into form at the right time, given he has stopped 92 of the 94 shots he has faced in his past three games — all victories.
“He was unbelievable and the biggest reason we won this game tonight,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.
After recording his first shutout of the season during Tuesday night’s 4-0 home ice win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners, Boivin stood tall Wednesday night as the Voodoos outshot the Rock 43-28.
“To put things into perspective, we left six guys (blue-liners Kyle Trottier, Chase Longhurst-McIntyre, Elijah Pool and Sam Gallagher, as well as forwards Kaeden McArthur and Henry McLellan) back in Timmins, then we lost (blue-liner) Ayden Trottier in the second period, so we were down to five defencemen and Felix Cadieux-Fredette took a two (minute minor) and a 10 (minute misconduct), so we lost him for 12 minutes,” Perry said.
“So, we had no D. They are all hurt. Then, we lost Liam Wells to injury.
“We are a beat up team and this was the biggest character win I have ever seen, playing or coaching.”
The coach indicated the injuries to Ayden Trottier and Wells will result in long-term absences from the Rock lineup.
With the GNU18L’s Timmins U18 Majors idle Wednesday night, the Rock were able to employ the services of blue-liners Zach Secord and Jakob Drobny for a second-straight game.
The duo likely will not be available when the Rock host the Soo Eagles at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night, however, as their U18 Majors will be in North Bay taking on the Trappers.
“Hopefully, if they are healthy they can leave us one,” Perry said.
Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Rock capitalized on a number of power-play opportunities in the middle frame.
Harry Clark got the puck rolling when he scored the first of two goals on the night and 29th of the season, with the Rock enjoying the man advantage, at the 5:02 mark.
The Voodoos got that one back four-and-a-half minutes later when Zach Turner scored his 13th goal of the season.
Shortly after the midway mark in the period, Voodoos forward Caden Dubreuil was assessed a five-minute major penalty for head contact and a game misconduct on the play in which Ayden Trottier was injured.
The Rock struck for two more power-play markers to take a 3-1 lead in the contest on that man advantage.
Clark’s second tally of the night and 30th of the season would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Brant Romaniuk then followed with his 13th goal of the season.
The Rock carried their two-goal advantage into the third period and maintained it until the Voodoos pulled goalie Daniel Dirracolo in favour of an extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining in regulation.
The move backfired, however, when Rock forward Hayden Rynard deposited his 11th goal of the season into the empty Powassan net, closing out the scoring.
“Special teams were really good for us tonight,” Perry said, reflecting on the Rock’s three power-play goals and perfect record on the penalty kill.
“Our power play was on fire and our penalty kill was awesome tonight. In a game like this, we really needed that. You get an opportunity on the power play and you have to make it count.
“Then, we were basically hanging on for dear life.”
The Rock’s past four victories have included triumphs over the two teams chasing them for top spot in the East Division standings, the Voodoos Wednesday night and the Hearst Lumberjacks last Friday, but the coach is not placing too much emphasis on those accomplishments.
“The message in the (dressing) room is we like to focus on what’s right in front of us, so we are focused on the Soo Eagles now,” Perry said.
“Sure our guys scoreboard watch and check the standings all the time. They know how important those games are, but we take it one game at a time here. We will be the best team we can be Thursday at practice, we will be the best team we can be Friday at practice and we will be the best team we can be Saturday.
“We take things one day at a time and I think that’s why we have had the success we have had.”
The coach liked what he saw from a number of his Rock players Wednesday night.
“I thought our whole D corps, obviously with those two young guys (Secord and Drobny) back there were really good,” Perry said. “Tenzin Nyman, Ethan Albert and Felix Cadieux-Fredette were fantastic.
“Patrick Boivin, obviously, was next level. Our top line (Clark, Mason Svarich and Nolan Ring) and our power play, were really clicking. Brant Romaniuk had a really good game. Jaden Lyons had a really good game.
“Our penalty kill, Jack Anderson, Ryan Armitage, Thomas Beard, Hayden Rynard all played great.”
Boivin stopped 42 of the 43 shots he faced to earn his 16th win of the season for the Rock.
Dirracolo, who turned aside 24 of the 27 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Boivin, Clark and Voodoos forward Dylan McElhinny (one assist) … The Rock went 3-4 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 149 … Wednesday’s only other contest saw the Eagles double up the Elliot Lake Vikings 8-4 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., … The Rock will return to action on Saturday when they host the Eagles at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.
“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel