UPDATE / GALLERY: Rock double up Storm, pushing them to brink of elimination

Iroquois Falls Storm forward Charlie Crump reaches in to try and knock the puck off the stick of Timmins Rock blue-liner Ethan Albert during Game 3 of their NOJHL East Division semifinal series at the Jus Jordan Arena Tuesday night. Albert scored his first goal in a Timmins uniform to help the Rock double up the Storm 6-3 and take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. TURNBULL’S NORTHERN PHOTOGRAPHY/FOR NOJHL NETWORK jpg, TD, apsmc

Photos: Turnbull’s Northern Photography

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

IROQUOIS FALLS, Ont. – The Timmins Rock pushed the Storm to the brink of elimination at the Jus Jordan Arena Tuesday night, posting a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of their best-of-seven NOJHL East Division semifinal series.

After taking the first two games of the series on home ice, 5-1 Friday night and 6-0 Sunday afternoon, the Rock were in control for much of Game 3, faltering for maybe a five-minute stretch late in the middle frame and early in the third period.

“We got a little bit lazy the last three minutes of the second period and they obviously had a bunch of momentum coming into the third period,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“I thought we did a good job of weathering the storm (no pun intended), though, and getting back to work.”

The Rock outshot the Storm 18-3 in the opening 20 minutes of action and took a 3-0 lead in the contest.

It took just 1:59 for Lucas Lowe to get the Rock on the scoreboard, as he buried his first goal of the playoffs.

Brant Romaniuk then added his third goal of the playoffs, just past the midway point in the period.

And Ryan Armitage chipped in with his second goal of the playoffs, with less than two minutes remaining in the frame.

“We are just playing good hockey right now, the team is playing really well,” Perry said, explaining the Rock’s fast start.

“We came out fast and held on to possession (of the puck), got some good looks in the O Zone and guys were finding the back of the net. We are a good hockey team when we get going.”

The score remained 3-0 in favour of the Rock until late in the second period when the Storm exploded for a pair of markers.

Lucas Peever scored his first goal of the playoffs with 1:42 remaining in the frame.

Then, with 13 seconds left on the clock, Ben Sherwin scored his first goal of the playoffs.

Sherwin completed the Storm’s comeback 3:23 into the third period when he netted his second goal of the game and playoffs, an unassisted tally.

Unfortunately for Storm fans, the Rock reeled off three-straight goals to put the contest away.

And it took just 13 seconds for Jack Kelly to re-establish the Rock lead, as he netted his third tally of the playoffs — a marker that would stand up to be the game-winning goal.

“That was huge, it was a big goal by Jack,” Perry said.

Harry Clark then added his fifth goal of the series, to provide the Rock with a little insurance.

And blue-liner Ethan Albert closed out the scoring when he netted his first goal of the playoffs — the first in his 22 games (19 regular season and three playoffs) in a Rock uniform.

Both the Rock and the Storm did a better job of staying out of the penalty box Tuesday night, limiting the number of power-play opportunities for each side.

“It wasn’t as rough as the first two games of the series, that’s for sure,” Perry said.

In the first two games of the series, the Rock’s big guns were pacing the attack, but Tuesday night they got goals from six different players, resulting in a much more balanced offensive approach.

“We had contributions from up and down our lineup,” Perry said.

“It was a team effort and everybody played well. I really like (blue-liner) Chase Longhurst-McIntyre’s game right now. Ryan Armitage, Henry McLellan and Jack Anderson gave us some really good minutes. Their line got two goals and that was big for us.”

While the Rock have now scored 17 goals in their three victories in the series, even more impressive is the fact they have surrendered just four goals in that span.

“Obviously, goaltending has been big, and have health D (defence), having a good rotation back there has been helping,” Perry said.

“We have been playing good team defence.”

Blue-liner Thomas Sefton, an affiliate player, made his debut with the Rock Tuesday night and picked up an assist in his first game with the squad.

“We have been trying to get him up here all year, especially with all the injuries we have had on the back end,” Perry said.

“We put him in there and he looked good, played really well. He is a solid defender and he has good instincts. He moves the puck well, nothing super flashy, just a solid defenceman.”

The 5-11, 190-pound, left-hand shooting, 2005-birth-year North Bay product had been playing with the GOJHL’s Pelham Panthers (45, 4-13-17, 55) earlier this season and has previous NOJHL experience with both the Powassan Voodoos (8, 0-2-2, 4) and Elliot Lake Red Wings (45, 4-7-11, 17), now Vikings.

The Rock were without the services of a pair of key forwards Tuesday night, as both Liam Wells (upper-body injury, in Game 2) and Jaden Lyons (lower-body injury, in Game 1) did not dress for the contest.

Thankfully, Perry indicated there were no new injuries to add to the list following Tuesday’s contest.

“Nothing serious, just the regular bumps and bruises you get at this time of year,” he said.

While the Rock clearly appear to be in the driver’s seat, Perry knows any series isn’t over until it’s over.

“The fourth one is the hardest to get, obviously,” he said.

“Teams (down 3-0) play desperate hockey, with their backs against the wall, come out swinging and they have no choice but to throw everything they have got against you, so we will be ready.”

Rock goalie Dryden Riley, who blanked the Storm on Sunday, stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced to earn his second win of the playoffs.

Connor Hatfield, who turned aside 38 of the 44 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Rock forward Thomas Beard (two assists), Sherwin and Armitage … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Storm were 0-1 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Jus Jordan Arena was 623 … Tuesday’s other action saw the Voodoos edge the Hearst Lumberjacks 4-3 in overtime, to take a 2-1 lead in the other East Division semifinal series; the Paper Kings edge the Blind River Beavers 3-2, to take a 3-1 lead in one West Division semifinal series; and the Greater Sudbury Cubs squeak past the Thunderbirds 4-3 in Sault Ste. Marie, to tie up the other West Division semifinal series at 2-2 … The Rock will travel to Iroquois Falls for Game 4 of their East Division semifinal series against the Storm at the Jus Jordan Arena on Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.