ESPANOLA — The Timmins Rock rolled back into top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings, thanks to a 7-1 win over the Express at the Regional Recreation Complex Sunday afternoon.
It was the second win of the weekend for the Rock, who tripled the Crunch 6-2 at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night.
Those two victories, combined with the Voodoos 3-2 regulation loss to the Crunch in Cochrane Saturday night, leave the Rock (38-9-1-1) one point ahead of Powassan (38-8-1-0), although the later has two games in hand.
Rock coach Corey Beer was pleased to see his squad come up with a second-straight solid performance.
“Both games, the one in Cochrane and this afternoon’s, we were generating offence the right way, not cheating on plays and not putting ourselves in bad spots for the benefit of a risky goal, something like that,” he said.
“We all sat down and had a meeting before we left for Friday night’s game in Cochrane, after that Powassan game. There wasn’t enough team mentality in that Powassan game, so we really made it a point to play for one another in Cochrane and here.
“Everyone was in on doing things the right way and making sure team success is the greatest thing we are after.
“Low and behold, we saw guys who were playing selfless, doing the right things and producing two lop-sided wins.
“It has been a really good weekend.”
Sunday afternoon, it was actually the Express got on the scoreboard first, thanks to Zachary Matyasik’s 15th goal of the season, a power-play marker, at the 3:01 mark of the first period.
It took the Rock less than four-and-a-half minutes to get back on even terms, however, with blue-liner Owen Shier striking for the first of his two goals on the afternoon and sixth of the season.
Then, just 2:29 into the middle frame, Phil Caron — whose penalty proved so costly in Thursday’s 3-2 home-ice loss to the Voodoos — found the back of the net for the second-straight game, this time notching what would prove to be the game-winning goal. It was the converted blue-liner’s 17th tally of the season.
Two more goals, scored five minutes apart in the second half of the period, allowed the Rock to break open what had, to that point, been a close game.
Karter Renouf notched the first of those two tallies when he netted his 15th goal of the season.
Shier then collected his second goal of the afternoon and seventh of the season to send the Rock into the second intermission holding a 4-1 lead.
The third period was all Rock, as the visitors added three more goals to make the final 7-1.
Josh Dickson netted the first two of those three tallies, as he collected his team-leading 26th and 27th goals of the season less than four minutes apart in the first half of the frame.
Zach Smith then closed out the scoring when he added his sixth goal of the season.
While the results of Sunday afternoon’s contest and Friday night’s game were similar, the way the Rock achieved each was far different.
“This afternoon was a bit of a different story,” Beer said.
“During the first period, Espanola played real hard, real aggressive and real physical.
“We were able to withstand that and then, from the second period on, it was just puck management and domination.
“It was outstanding. When we play the right way, this team has so much talent, so much character and when guys want to play for each other, we can certainly do some special things.”
It might sound a bit cliché, but everybody on the ice in the maroon, gold and white of the Rock impressed their coach Sunday afternoon.
“It was the exact same thing as the game in Cochrane, a complete team effort,” Beer said.
“I will point to a couple of situations. Friday night, in Cochrane, guys like Tyler Gilberds, (Riley) Brousseau and (Gabinien) Kioki had great games overall.
“This afternoon, we had guys like Zach Smith and Eric Moreau blocking shots when we were up 5-1 and 7-1. There were a lot of selfless acts like that in the contest.
“The Dickson, (captain Derek) Seguin and the Renouf line, starting the third period going down low and grinding out the net cycle, scoring a goal, were just great.
“It is those types of plays that have a long-lasting impact on the way we want to play the game.
“I would be remiss, as well, if I didn’t talk about our defencemen. You come out of a weekend allowing just three goals against and it is just incredible what they do along with our goaltending.”
The coach was also pleased with the way Caron rebounded in both contests on the weekend and not just because he scored in back-to-back games.
“I loved the way he chipped pucks out of our zone and chipped pucks into their zone, doing the right things to get down low,” Beer said.
“That goal he scored this afternoon was the byproduct of a great forecheck at the end of a power play where their penalty killers were still tired. A fresh guy comes on and Brosseau goes in, hammers the guy on the forecheck.
“Tyler Gilberds comes in with secondary support and finds Phil at the backdoor for a one-timer.
“Phil is putting himself in good spots, like a lot of our guys are right now.
“They are doing the right things to get to the puck and then, when other guys are making plays off of them, they are finding themselves in the right areas.
“You could right a strip on how to play the game, based on these last two games.”
Shier, just 12 days removed from his 18th birthday, also caught his coach’s eye Sunday afternoon.
“He had a bomb from the point tonight on a great check down from Zach Fortin,” Beer said.
“The puck came back to him and he hit the one-timer. His other goal was a bit of a floater, a seeing-eye shot.
“It is something we work on with our guys a lot, being able to walk the line and get shots through.
“It is great to see the evolution of Owen and the physical element he brings to our game.
“There are so many nights you forget that kid is playing as a 17 year old. He doesn’t act like it at all.”
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak, turned aside 29 of the 30 shots he faced, to earn his 23rd win of the season.
Express netminder Carson Boutin, a native of Iroquois Falls, blocked 32 of the 39 shots the Rock directed his way and he was tagged with the loss.
ROCK 6 CRUNCH 2
Gilberds scored a pair of goals and added an assist to help lead the Rock to a 6-2 victory over the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night.
The Rock jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back.
Dickson got the visitors on the scoreboard first when he notched his 25th goal of the season at the 3:21 mark of the opening period.
Three-and-a-half minutes later, Caron added his 16th goal of the season to give the Rock a two-goal cushion heading into the first intermission.
Three unanswered second-period goals allowed the Rock to blow the game wide open.
Brendan Boyce got the puck moving at the 2:41 mark when he scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal. It was the fifth tally of the season for the blue-liner who was filling in up front in the contest.
Just over six minutes later, Gilberds netted the first of his two goals on the night, his 17th of the campaign.
Kioki then closed out the scoring in the frame when he netted his ninth goal of the season. It marked the third-straight game in which the Attawapiskat native has found the back of the net.
Trailing 5-0 heading into the third period, the Crunch pulled starting goalie Zach Wickson, with Tomi Gagnon coming on to finish up the contest between the pipes.
The netminding change did not pay immediate dividends, however, as Gilberds ripped a slap shot past the new puck stopper for a power-play marker at the 4:32 mark of the third period.
It was the second goal of the night and 18th of the season for the 18 year old.
The Crunch were finally able to give their fans something to cheer about just past the nine-minute mark when Nicholas Grandy spoiled the shutout bid of Rock goalie Vance Meyer with his 17th goal of the season.
Then, just over a minute later, Dakota Seaman added his third goal of the season for the Crunch to close out the scoring.
After giving the Rock fits in earlier encounters this season, Crunch coach and general manager Ryan Leonard was not happy with the effort put forth by his team in front of their home fans Friday night.
“It was just a complete lack of effort all the way around,” he said.
“We were lazy. Our best player tonight was our affiliate player, Ryan Maynard, and he was just coming in, not really a part of our system, yet he made the least amount of mistakes.
“That is not good for a team that is supposed to be getting ready for the playoffs.
“We beat Hearst 5-3 here Tuesday night, but we had a 4-0 lead and then started getting lazy.
“On top of that, we lost three guys (Jordan Fielding, Matthew Minichiello and Maxwell Tucker) in the previous Timmins game (a 4-2 loss on Feb. 1) and three of those guys are on the power play and penalty kill.
“Now, I am starting to learn how deep our team is and our team is not that deep.
“Tonight, we only had jump in the last eight minutes of the game and that is not good enough. You have to come to the rink this time of the year ready to play.”
With a record of 22-21-3-2 after the weekend, the fourth-place Crunch are in no-man’s land — unlikely to catch the team ahead of them (Hearst) or be caught by the team behind them (Kirkland Lake) in the East Division.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Sunday’s contest were Shier, Dickson and Matyasik, while Gilberds, Caron and forward Riley Brousseau (two assists) were honoured Friday night … The Rock did not dress forwards Riley Robitaille (serving the second game of a six-game suspension) , Cameron Kosurko (upper-body injury) and David Laroche (lower-body injury), as well as blue-liner Quinn Schneidmiller (upper-body injury) in either weekend contest … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play in Espanola, while the Express were 1-4 with the man advantage. In Cochrane, the Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Crunch were 0-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex Sunday afternoon was 178, while the crowd at the Tim Horton Event Centre Friday night was was 250 … The Rock will return to action on Tuesday when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.