Timmins Rock forward C.J. Bradburn has his sights set on a juicy rebound in front of Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Artem Bortovskiy during the first period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena, but he was unable to gain control of the puck on the play. After dropping their home opener to the French River Rapids Friday night, the Rock battled back to defeat the Lumberjacks 3-1 Saturday night — thanks to a pair of late shorthanded goals. The Rock will host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday afternoon. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Derek Seguin broke in all alone and drilled a wrist shot past goalie Artem Bortovskiy for a shorthanded goal with 1:08 remaining in regulation help lead the Timmins Rock to a 3-1 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
It was the second goal of the game for Seguin, whose first goal late in the second period had gotten the Rock back on even terms.
“In tight moments like that, in the last two minutes of a hockey game, you always have plays in your mind, muscle memory kinds of things,” he said.
“So, on the breakaway, it was kind of second nature to pull it and shoot low blocker. It is something Matt Tremblay taught me a long time ago.”
With the Rock shorthanded, Seguin admitted he was thinking in the back of his mind that he did not want to get caught in deep if Bortovskiy stopped the shot.
“We were tired and it was hard skating out of our zone, but I caught a break and I tried not to think about it too much,” he said.
“I knew that if I put the puck in the net I wouldn’t have to backcheck.”
Alexandre Brisson added a second shorthanded goal into an empty Lumberjacks’ goal, with Bortovskiy on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, 31 seconds later to add a little icing on the cake for the home side.
After dropping a 3-1 decision to the French River Rapids during Friday night’s home opener, the Rock took the play to the Lumberjacks Saturday night — outshooting their opponents 16-6 during the first period of play.
They were unable to capitalize, however, and the Lumberjacks jumped in front 1-0 when Bradley Golant beat Rock goalie Eric Jackson for his second goal of the season at the 7:57 mark.
That’s the way the score remained until Seguin was able to beat Bortovskiy with 3:25 remaining in the middle frame.
“We outshot them badly in the first period and we were outshooting them in the second period, as well, but the puck just wasn’t going in for us,” Seguin said.
“So, you just have to go to the dirty areas in front of the net and try to get a puck in and when it went in that opened up the flood gates.”
Rock coach Corey Beer, who picked up his first regular-season victory behind the Timmins bench, was a lot happier with his squad’s efforts than he had been 24 hours earlier.
“It was a lot better performance for our team, right from the get go,” he said.
“When it came to puck possession and winning physical battles, I thought we did a great job all night. I loved our tempo and pace.
“We were able to roll four lines and six D all night.”
After scoring just one goal Friday night and failing to find the back of the net until late in the second period, the Rock played a disciplined game Saturday night and bided their time until they got their chances.
“We had a great video session this morning (Saturday),” Beer said.
“The guys were rejuvenated by how well we played, with maybe some minor miscues last night that ended up in the back of our net.
“We dedicate ourselves to playing good defence right from the get go and sometimes the best defence is having the puck all night. We did a good job of that, as well as blocking shots and committing to battles, the small things that are going to help us win in the long run.”
The Rock’s No. 1 line — Seguin, captain Wayne Mathieu and C.J. Bradburn — led the way offensively and had a solid all-around game.
“That line was incredible all night and they played with pace all the time,” Beer said.
“Things got a little harry there with Derek on the penalty kill, possible going too deep in the zone, but when you have that kind of skill out there and you score a shorthanded goal, it is going to lift the team.
“He took a heck of shot to get the win.”
The Rock did a solid job killing penalties Saturday night.
“I thought our guys did a great job on the penalty kill,” Beer said.
“The back end was incredible, fronting shot and playing aggressive in the corners. You certainly don’t win tight, defensive games like this without that type of commitment to being in a solid defensive position.”
While Beer was pleased with the play of all seven of his defencemen, two of the Rock’s youngest blue-liners — 16-year-old Will Caston and 17-year-old Shawn Sloan — really stood out.
“Their transition game was off the charts tonight,” he said.
“They both have good footwork. It’s a strange pairing. You have one of them who is 6-4 (Caston) and another one who is 5-8 (Sloan). They were really unfazed by the moment.”
It was the first Junior ‘A’ game for Sloan, who was a healthy scratch during Friday night’s 3-1 loss to the Rapids.
“He handled himself like a veteran,” Beer said.
Caston certainly used his size and strength to keep the area in front of Jackson clear of Lumberjacks during the contest.
“His date of birth might say he is 16 years old, but he certainly doesn’t play like it,” Beer said.
“That is a very encouraging thing for us and we are very proud of the way he has started the season. It will be tough for him to maintain it. There will be some highs and lows, but he is a bright young man and a heck of a hockey player.”
Jackson was not overly busy in the Rock net Saturday night, but he came up with a number of key saves at key moments in the game.
“Hearst has got some of the top talent in this league and we left some of their top players unmarked,” Beer said.
“E.J. came up with some fantastic saves. They came at us with some good offence at different points in the game and E.J. was up to the task.”
Coming off a big 2-0 victory over the Soo Thunderbirds on home ice Friday night, the Lumberjacks were not as sharp Saturday night.
“I think we were lucky,” said Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur.
“If it were not for our goaltending, the game would have been much worse. I don’t think we played good enough to be disappointed we were not able to get to overtime and get at least a single point.
“They (the Rock) made the right kind of plays, blocked the right kinds of shots and they capitalized.”
Lafleur feels his squad still has a lot of work to do before they get to the point where they want to be this season.
“It’s a big learning curve for a lot of these guys in terms of positional play and intensity,” he said.
“As the season progresses, I think we are going to have more success.”
Asked what his team did well Saturday night, Lafleur had a blunt answer: “Nothing. Timmins played awesome. They really took the game to us. They play a very smart game and I felt our compete level was not at the same height as theirs.”
Lafleur did have kind words for the play of his veteran goaltender.
“He was a big difference maker for us tonight and Bradley Golant, who is small in stature, right now is our best player. He is doing everything for us and we just need a couple of other guys to step up.”
Even with Saturday night’s loss, the Lumberjacks still have a .500 record.
“On paper, that’s OK, but it is the manner in which we lost tonight that is very concerning,” Lafleur said.
“We got beat off the wall all night. They (the Rock) won the one-on-ones all night and there are some guys on this hockey team who don’t understand the importance of taking pride in winning one-on-one battles.”
Jackson stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Rock.
Bortovskiy, who turned aside 36 of the 38 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss for the Lumberjacks.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Seguin, Bortovskiy and Mathieu … The Rock did not dress defenceman Lucas Dolanjski and forward Linden Spencer … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 896 … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, but did score a pair of shorthanded goals, while the Lumberjacks were 0-4 with the man advantage … Saturday night’s other contests saw the Soo Thunderbirds edge the Crunch 3-2 in Cochrane, the Gold Miners blank the French River Rapids 3-0 in Kirkland Lake, the Beavers top the Espanola Express 4-1 in Blind River and the Elliot Lake Wildcats beat the Eagles 5-3 in Sault, Mich. … The Rock will host the Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, starting at 3 p.m.