By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock sped past the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 7-3 at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
Jordan Rendle scored twice to key the attack for the Rock, while Bain Cunningham and Aaron Kerr each had a goal and a pair of assists.
Defenceman Brennan McGuire’s second goal of the season proved to be the game-winning goal.
“I saw Aaron coming out high, so I started to move down the half wall,” McGuire said.
“I saw (Zachary) Kercz in front of the net and I tried to feed him in front, but I got a lucky bounce and it went off the defenceman’s skate and in.”
Known as a stay-at-home defender, McGuire was happy to be able to contribute in the offensive zone, as well, Saturday night.
“It’s huge,” he said.
“Sometimes it is what you have got to do get a win in these games, get other guys to chip in and as of late, that is what I have been doing.”
McGuire and his defensive partner, Nick Hautanen, knew that they had to pay special attention anytime they were on the ice against the Canadians big line of captain Ryan Erickson, Bradley Chenier and Otis Goldman.
“You have got to be aware of everybody who is on the ice at that point in time,” McGuire said.
“You have got to battle and do everything you can to shut them down. There was a bit of trash talking going on and it was a good junior hockey game. There was a good compete level from both teams.”
The fourth and final regular-season meeting between the two NOJHL squads proved to be an intense battle right to the final buzzer with a parade of players from both side being banished to the penalty box — or their dressing rooms — in the final three minutes of the contest.
Referees Anthony Fee and Darren Thib handed out15 penalties during that span, which was touched off when Kendall Huckins, of the Canadians, took Rock forward Kyle Levis heavily into the boards just inside the Timmins blue-line at the 17:18 mark of the third period.
Levis had to be helped off the ice — after laying prone for a lengthy time while being assisted by Rock trainer Dan Ansara — and he did not return to the game.
Huckins received a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.
Nine seconds later Andrew Green, of the Rock, and Brody Brunet, of the Canadians, were given misconduct penalties, while Rock forward Wayne Mathieu and Canadians defenceman Yanic Hebert were assessed minor penalties for slashing and cross-checking respectively.
Things came to a head with 14 seconds remaining on the clock and the outcome of the game long decided.
Kercz was assessed a double minor penalty for spearing, as well as an M21 for harassment of an official, while Rock defenceman Nick Hautanen was also assessed an M21 for harassment of an official.
Meanwhile, Canadians defenceman Brett Whitehead was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for roughing, as well as an M22 misconduct for inciting, while Canadians defenceman Jayme Forslund was assessed an M22 misconduct for inciting and Canadians forward Jackson Gunner was handed both an M22 misconduct for inciting and a game misconduct.
Prior to the final three minutes of the third period, Saturday night’s contest had been a relatively tame affair, with just nine minor penalties being assessed during the first 57 minutes of the contest.
Canadians coach Jason Young, whose team could only dress 16 players because of injuries and illness, was not happy with the was Saturday night’s contest wrapped up.
“It got a little chippy there near the end,” he said.
“That’s just the way it goes. You get frustrated and stuff, but the one thing I am really disappointed about is, we are front the North, and this is the NOJHL, and when one of my kids comes off the ice and gets a Coke can to the face, that’s not a lot of class, not at all, and I am very disappointed it that.
“You come to watch a game and you have got to remember, some of these kids are 15 years old and when you throw a Coke can at a kid who did absolutely nothing to you, he is coming off the ice injured, he didn’t do anything on the ice, he is coming off the ice injured, I am very disappointed.”
Canadians forward Tristan Simm was the player struck in the face with the beverage can.”
Despite starting the game with a short bench and a number of players still feeling the ill effects of the flu bug that has ravished the Canadians dressing room this week, Young felt his team was at least able to make a game of it Saturday night.
“I thought we played pretty good, for a while,” he said.
“Obviously, the Rock are an offensive team and we gave them a lot of chances. The thing we did wrong is we let them get their speed going and their speed really stood out today. I thought they really skated well. They are a good skating team. They scored three goals off the rush.
“A couple of the goals I didn’t like early. There were two goals from the side I didn’t like, so I made a change in net.
“We came out pretty hard, but the bottom line is we really didn’t get the saves when we really needed to get them. That’s both of them (Canadians goalies Jessie Morin and MacKenzie Savard).
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was happy with the outcome of Saturday night’s game and the effort his team put forth from the first puck drop until the final buzzer.
“This is one of those games where I can honestly say there were no passengers,” he said.
“We really stuck to the game plan tonight. We wanted to play aggressive against them and we were able to pin them down in their zone tonight. We did a really good job, with the D stepping up and pinching at the line and then our forwards providing lots of support.”
Daschuk was also happy to see McGuire double his goal total.
“He is not a guy who scores often, but it was fun to see him with the big smile on his face after a goal.
All the Rock foward lines were rolling Saturday night, with both of the top units providing plenty of offence.
“Once the cycle gets going, it is hard to stop,” Daschuk said.
“All three lines were cycling good tonight. Our second line, with Rendle, Cunningham and Kercz was great tonight. They were kind of in a shutdown role tonight against the other team’s big line and not only did they shut them down, they chipped in offensively, as well.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead five minutes into the opening period on Tristan Salesse’s 26th goal of the season.
Six-and-a-half minutes later, the Rock increased their lead to 2-0 on Rendle’s27th goal of the season.
The Canadians got on the scoreboard with just under three minutes remaining in the period when Brody Brunet netted his fifth goal of the season on the power play.
Cunningham’s 22nd goal of the season, with 22.6 seconds remaining on the clock, sent the Rock into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead.
McGuire increased that margin to 4-1 when he netted his second goal of the season five minutes into the second period.
The Canadians were able to cut the Rock’s lead back to two goals less than four minutes later when Matthew Neault scored his 17th goal of the season.
Rendle’s second goal of the game and 28th on the season five minutes later put the Rock in front 5-2 heading into the second intermission.
Young lifted Morin in favour of Savard to start the third period and the move provided a modicum of momentum.
Erickson potted his 24th goal of the season early in the third period to cut the Rock lead to two goals and provide the visitors with a glimmer of hope.
Kerr struck for his 12th goal of the season two minutes later, however, to put the Rock up 6-3 and then Jared Hester wired home a slap shot for his fifth goal of the season to close out the scoring and make the final 7-3 in favour of the home side.
Logan Ferrington made 28 saves to earn the victory for the Rock, while Morin stopped 21 of the 26 shots fired his way and was tagged with the loss. Savard turned aside 14 of the 16 shots he faced in the third period.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were (No.1) Cunningham, (No. 2) Rendle and (No. 3) Whitehead … The Rock went 2-5 on the power play, while the Canadians were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 645 … Saturday’s other NOJHL action saw the Cochrane Crunch blank the Eskis 5-0 in Iroquois Falls, the Thunderbirds double the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-2 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Voodoos bomb the French River Rapids 10-2 in Powassan and Elliot Lake Wildcats and the Eagles battled to a 2-2 draw in Sault, Mich. … The Rock will return to action Friday night when they host the Soo Eagles at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.