Powassan Voodoos forward Cameron Lemcke prepares to get off a shot after cutting between Timmins Rock defenders Riley Dubois, left, and Cameron Dutkiewicz during Thursday night’s NOJHL contest at the Powassan Sportsplex. Lemcke was foiled on the play and the Rock went on to defeat the Voodoos 5-2. The Rock will return home to host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m. CATHY SULLIVAN/FOR POSTMEDIA NETWORK
The Timmins Rock rolled over the Voodoos 5-2 at the Sportsplex Thursday night to move into sole possession of top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings.
And the Rock, now 7-0-1-0 on the season, have two games in hand on the Voodoos (6-2-1-1) and four on the West Division’s Greater Sudbury Cubs (7-5-0-0).
Ranked No. 5 in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20, the Rock are also the only team in the NOJHL that has not lost in regulation to this point in the campaign.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was naturally pleased with his squad’s effort Thursday night.
The Rock jumped on the Voodoos early Thursday night, building up a 3-0 advantage in the opening half of the first period.
Blue-liner Riley Dubois got the puck rolling for the visitors when he notched his second goal of the season at the 2:54 mark.
Fellow blue-liner Tanner Hamilton then added his third goal of the season just over a minute later.
And Tyler Patterson then completed the offensive outburst when he netted his first goal of the season at the 6:22 mark.
“We started fast and the boys played really good,” he said.
“Structurally, we were really good and our compete level was really high. With the depth and skill we have when we show up and compete, work hard, these kind of results are to be expected.”
The Voodoos, who outshot the Rock 17-9 in the frame, managed to rally before the end of the period and cut the visitors’ lead to 3-1, thanks to Ben White’s third goal of the season, a power-play marker.
Perry was not surprised to see some pushback from the Voodoos before the end of the period.
“They have a heck of a hockey team and they came storming back,” he said.
“We were able to weather the storm, make some adjustments and tighten things up the rest of the game.”
As a result, the Voodoos were not able to carry forward any of the momentum from their late first-period rally into the middle frame and Nicolas Pigeon scored his second goal of the season to restore the Rock’s three goal advantage heading into the final frame.
“That was a huge goal, helping to stymie any comeback, so to speak,” Perry said.
“Any time they score and you can respond with a goal is a good sign.”
Timmins native Justin Charette then struck for his first NOJHL goal to put the Rock in front 5-1 at the 7:26 mark of the third period.
Some late Rock penalty trouble gave the Voodoos a chance to get on the board again in the contest’s dying minutes and Caleb Van de Ven added another power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season, with 1:42 remaining on the clock.
Perry was pleased to see Charette and Patterson net their first goals of the season Thursday night.
“Both of those kids are really talented young players,” he said.
“Guys can kind of get in their own heads a little bit when pucks aren’t going in, so they were two big goals.
“Charette’s goal was an absolute next level shot. He played a great game and he was buzzing all night.
“Patterson is always flying around and he went to the net hard. When you are snake-bitten and bounces aren’t going your way, that’s a good place to start, get in the blue paint, with your stick on the ice.
“We had good D activation there, (Hamilton) fired the pass right at his stick and into the back of the back of the net.
“Those were two big goals for their confidence and we were happy to see them get them.”
D activation is a big part of the Rock game plan game-in and game-out and the coach was not surprised to see two of his blue-liners find the back of the net Thursday night.
“Dubois’ goal was just a great pass from Charette and he had the presence of mind to jump into the play, then Hammer (Hamilton) was just in a good spot and Nolan Ring made a great pass out of the corner and found him up top,” Perry said.
“He put a lot of weight on it, but I don’t think he was shooting to score. I think he was taking a shot to get the puck on net and create a rebound.
“It was just a great job. Obviously, we want our D active in the offence, but to be smart about it and not get caught up ice.”
With Aiden Farr (upper-body injury) and Chase Longhurst (upper-body injury) out of the lineup and no affiliates available because the GNU18L’s Timmins Majors are in Ottawa for a tournament, the Rock dressed five blue-liners and 13 forwards Thursday night.
“With only five guys back there they battled all night,” Perry said.
“They played hard all night and they were exhausted.”
The coach was pleased to see his squad limit the damage done by the Voodoos at the end of Thursday night’s contest.
“The guys on the penalty kill did a great job, blocking shots and (Rock goalie) Gavin McCarthy was absolutely outstanding tonight,” Perry said.
“He is a big reason we got these two points. Everybody just did a good job on the PK at the end and we weathered the storm.”
While Perry is happy to see his squad earn Top 5 recognition from the people who put together the CJHL rankings, he isn’t putting too much stock in the accomplishment at this point in the season.
“Rankings don’t matter if you don’t get the job done at the end of the year,” he said.
“I think our guys do a really good job of managing their expectations. We have a really good mindset here and really good leadership.
“We take things one day at a time. We had Powassan in front of us and nobody was talking about rankings. Powassan stole a point from us the last time they were in our rink and this was just a business trip.”
The Rock lost Ring partway through Thursday night’s contest, but it isn’t known yet how serious his lower-body injury is or how long it might keep him out of the lineup.
McCarthy turned aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced to earn his fifth win of the season.
Voodoos goalie Alex Bugeja, who stopped 33 of the 38 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Charette, Hamilton and McCarthy … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 2-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 137 … Thursday’s other action saw the Hearst Lumberjacks dump the Crunch 4-1 in Cochrane and the Cubs edge the Elliot Lake Red Wings 2-1 in Greater Sudbury … The Rock will return to action on Sunday when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, at 3 p.m.