ESPANOLA — Eamon Bollinger scored a goal and added a pair of assists to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 5-2 win over the Express at Regional Recreation Complex Friday night.
The victory extended the Rock’s winning streak to four games, with the last three coming on the road.
“We are playing some pretty good hockey right now,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“It’s nice. We are getting good scoring depth and that really helps since the strength of our team is we play four lines and six defencemen. Everybody is contributing and it definitely is a good feeling.”
The Rock got on the scoreboard first Friday night when Mahingan Decontie netted his third goal of the season at the 14:50 mark of the opening period.
They were unable to hold that advantage through the frame, however, as the Express tied things up at 1-1 on Lukas Lyszyk’s fourth goal of the season with 1:22 remaining on the clock.
“They are a tight-checking team,” Beer said.
“We watched them play during the (NOJHL) Showcase and they have a good forechecking club.
“(Express coach) Dave Clancy has done a great job going in there and getting those guys to work hard.
“We knew it was going to be a tough grind against them in their home building and the first period was a little back and forth.”
It took the Rock just 51 seconds of the second period to regain their one-goal advantage, as Matt Capisciolto potted his fourth goal of the season.
Bollinger then added what would prove to be the game-winning tally, his second goal of the season, with 2:44 remaining in the middle frame.
Then, 44 seconds later, Linden Spencer added his first goal of the season to send the Rock to the dressing room for the second intermission with a 4-1 advantage.
“During the second period, we were able to get back to our game with a little more activation from the point and a good cycle,” Beer said.
“We were the beneficiary of a couple of nice goals.”
The Express were able to cut into the lead when Cordell Boyko struck for a power-play marker, his first goal of the season, at the 16:32 mark of the third period.
That would prove to be as close as the Express would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Rock got a goal from 16-year-old blue-liner Owen Shier, the first of his Junior ‘A’ career less than a minute later to make the final score 5-2 in favour of the visitors.
To say that Beer mixed and match his line combinations throughout the contest might be a bit of an understatement.
“To be quite honest, I think all of our forwards played with different linemates throughout the night,” he said.
“We threw it in the blender quite a bit tonight trying to find some different combinations. We were trying to give our guys a different spark from period to period.”
One line combination the coach was impressed with was comprised of the trio of Bollinger, Darcy Haupt and Keegan McMullen.
“I thought they were sensational,” Beer said.
“Keegan McMullen is playing the best hockey he has probably ever played in his life. He is at such a high confidence level and his skill and speed are on the next level.
“Darcy Haupt is a guy who is responsible in his own zone and he is getting better and better. He plays penalty kill and does the hard work most guys don’t want to do out there. He is always first on the puck.
“That line definitely had some momentum in the third period and whether we stick with that combination or move away from it, it is just great to see those three guys add some offence.”
Decontie continued to show the offensive flare that has seen his name on the scoresheet in recent games.
“He has been very opportunistic,” Beer said.
“He has got great creative skill and if he can round out his defensive game, he is going to be a good 200-foot player given how shifty he can be out there. It is always a challenge to get good offensive guys to buy in and play good defence but he has been doing a good job so far.”
The Rock continued to get balanced scoring, with both Spencer and Shier netting their first goals of the season.
“Linden is a guy who does so many things for us in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill that go unnoticed,” Beer said.
“He is probably one of the highest ice time fourth line centres in the league. He earns his minutes and to see him get the reward of a gorgeous goal tonight on a one-timer from the high slot was such a great thing.
“For Owen, this goal was a long time coming for him. He has tremendous offensive awareness at the blue-line. He made a heck of a pump fake to get someone to bite. It was a great seeing eye shot, one of those ones good offensive defencemen can create with puck movement and heads up awareness.
“The guys were pretty happy for him.”
The Rock’s newest addition, 1998-birth-year forward Tyler Hutchinson, picked up from the Pictou County Crushers, of the MJAHL, is not on the trip with the team.
“Tyler is a Port Perry boy I know quite well,” Beer said.
“He played for the Whitby Fury when I was coaching in Cobourg. He is a big, left-hand shot who can be very physical.
“We are hoping to try to get his game to the point where Michael Ferland was with the Calgary Flames before he got traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. He was that big, powerful lefty who could play bottom six minutes and grind but still had a flare for the offence.
“I think he is a guy who could be very effective for us.”
With the victory, the Rock (8-4-1-0) pulled to within three points of the second-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (10-2-0-0) in the East Division standings and increased their lead over the fourth-place Hearst Lumberjacks (6-5-1-0) to four points.
Meanwhile, the loss leaves the Express (2-12-0-0) in last place in the West Division standings sixth points behind the fifth-place Soo Eagles (5-8-0-0).
Tyler Masternak, who stopped 28 of the 30 shots directed his way, went the distance in goal for the Rock to record his sixth victory of the season.
Express goalie Eric Schneider, who turned aside 35 of the 40 shots the Rock peppered him with, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Bollinger, Lyszyk and Rock defenceman Josh Anderson (two assists) … The Rock went 0-2 on the power play, while the Express were 1-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex was 276 … Friday’s only other contest saw the Wildcats defeat the Cochrane Crunch 5-3 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will conclude their two-game road trip with a contest against the Wildcats in Elliot Lake Saturday night. The next home game for the Rock will be on Wednesday night when they host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.