A 4-1 win over the Rapids at the Noelville Arena Sunday afternoon allowed the Timmins Rock to reclaim a share of top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings.
FRENCH RIVER — A 4-1 win over the Rapids at the Noelville Arena Sunday afternoon allowed the Timmins Rock to reclaim a share of top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings.
The Rock (33-7-1-1) had slipped out of top spot Saturday night when they dropped a 1-0 decision to the Voodoos (34-7-0-0) in Powassan.
Each team now has 68 points — two more than the West Division-leading Blind River Beavers (31-10-1-3) — but the Voodoos have a game in hand on the Rock.
While he would have preferred to see his team emerge from the weekend with four points instead of two, Rock coach Corey Beer was still pleased with the effort he saw in both games.
“This was a great bounce-back win for us this afternoon,” he said.
“For whatever reason, this is always a bit of a tough place for us to play in terms of getting our emotion level up. There is not much intensity in this rink sometimes and they can kind of lull you to sleep.
“For our guys, we had a good first period, then played a so-so second period and in the third period we were again pretty strong.”
The Rock clearly showed a lot of heart by putting Saturday night’s heart-breaking loss behind them so quickly.
“Saturday night’s hockey game was tremendous from a fan-experience point of view,” Beer said.
“It was two incredible teams going at it and the pace was outstanding in terms of special-teams battles. Both teams’ penalty kills were great and both goalies were outstanding.
“It was a great hockey game. A lot of people would look to the turnover that resulted in the puck being in the back of our net, but the way we looked at it as a group that game was lost for us in the first seven minutes of the third period.
“We had a great second period, outshooting them 22-6, we were all over them, but couldn’t score, their goalie was great, but then we didn’t carry that momentum into the third period.
“We came out very flat and I think five of their seven shots came in the first seven minutes.
“We just didn’t have that same kind of killer instinct we had in the second period.
“Other than that, our guys were great and it was a thoroughly enjoyable hockey game to be part of, to be sure.”
Sunday afternoon, the Rock jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead, as they outshot the Rapids 18-8 in the frame.
Stewart Parnell got the Rock on the scoreboard first when he notched his 18th goal of the season nine seconds shy of the midway point in the period.
Tyler Gilberds then added his 16th goal of the season to make it a 2-0 hockey game.
That power-play marker would stand up to be the game-winner and the Georgetown native, who now has seven on the season, sits second behind Blind River Beaver forward Caleb Serre’s NOJHL-leading nine.
A sluggish second period, that saw the Rock outshoot their hosts 12-10, allowed the Rapids to cut the Timmins advantage to a single goal.
Blue-liner Connor Loft — who was acquired by the Rock and then dealt on the same day as part of a three-team transaction — got French River on the scoreboard when he scored a power-play marker, his fifth goal of the campaign.
It took the Rock just 34 seconds to add a little insurance once the puck dropped on the third period, as Josh Dickson struck for his team-leading 20th goal of the season — an unassisted marker.
Just over four minutes later, converted blue-liner Phil Caron added his 15th goal of the season to close out the scoring and make the final 4-1 in favour of the visitors.
There were plenty of Rock players who caught their coach’s eye in each of the two games on the weekend.
“Saturday night, you would be hard pressed to single out anybody who didn’t play well,” Beer said.
“You look at what Ty Masternak did in net. He was great and he gave us every chance to win that game.
“We also had good offence, start to finish.
“This afternoon, it was a little bit different game. French River presented a bit of a different challenge. They were maybe a little bit more physical down in the corners, although Saturday night’s game was pretty physical, too.
“One thing that stood out in this afternoon’s game is we got some very good leadership. Guys like Josh Anderson and Riley Robitaille for me really stood out.
“The second period was a little squirrely at times and we weren’t playing our best and those two just kind of brought everybody back down to earth and calmed everything down.
“Gabby Kioki is playing good minutes for us. Stewie Parnell is playing good minutes for us, as is Ty Gilberds. Eric Moreau and Zach Fortin are playing heavy minutes on the back end.
“It has been a good team concept and everyone is buying into it.”
Beer even had some kind words for his assistant coaches following Sunday afternoon’s contest.
“Sometimes how the bench dynamic works for us goes unnoticed,” he said.
“Both (assistant coach James Daschuk) Dazzer and (assistant coach Marc Bisson) Beez do such a good job feeding off me. If I am critical on certain areas of the game, they are going to be the calming voice.
“They know when to get the guys going on certain things and this afternoon we did something we have only done a few times.
“I basically sat back in the third period and let those two guys run the bench. I think that was a big reason why we were able to take a big step forward in the third period.”
While the coach would like to see his squad finish atop the NOJHL’s overall standings and earn home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, he is focused on taking things one game at a time.
“I know it sounds a bit cliché, but I don’t look at the standings,” Beer said.
“At his point, there are 16 or 17 games to go and everyone (in the division) is playing everyone else a couple of more times.
“We do a good job of making sure our guys are focused and up to speed on the task at hand.
“The standings will sort themselves out.”
The Rock suffered a pair of significant injuries on the weekend, with blue-liner Owen Shier going down with an upper-body injury and forward David Laroche having to exit Saturday night’s contest with a lower-body injury.
Rock goalie Vance Meyer turned aside 27 of the 28 shots he faced to pick up his 13th win of the season, while lowering his NOJHL-leading goals against average to 1.53.
Rapids goalie Ben Montgomery, who blocked 41 of the 45 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
VOODOOS 1 ROCK 0
Neither team was able to find the back of the net during an opening period that saw the Rock outshoot the Voodoos 14-13 at the Powassan Sportsplex Saturday night.
The game remained scoreless in the middle frame, as well, even though the Rock outshot the Voodoos 22-6.
It appeared the contest might be headed to overtime, as the game remained scoreless late into the third period but the Voodoos finally got on the scoreboard with just 2:41 remaining in regulation.
Joe Whittet’s 16th goal of the season finally ended the deadlock and lifted the Voodoos to their hard-fought victory.
Voodoos goalie Owen Say turned aside all 44 shots the Rock directed his way to post his first shutout of the season and earn his 21st victory of the campaign.
Masternak, who blocked 25 of the 26 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Sunday afternoon’s game were Caron, Loft and Montgomery, while Say, Whittet and Masternak were honoured Saturday night … The Rock went 1-7 on the power play on Sunday, while the Rapids were 1-4 with the man advantage. Saturday night, the Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-6 with the man advantage … Rock forward Gabinien Kioki was ejected from Saturday night’s game in the second period after being assessed a two-minute minor penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct … Sunday’s other action saw the Canadians thump the Elliot Lake Wildcats 10-3 in Rayside Balfour and the Beavers beat the Espanola Express 5-2 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. The next home game for the Rock will be on Saturday when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena, at 7 p.m.