By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock jumped out to a 5-0 first-period lead and then cruised to an 8-1 victory over the Espanola Express Friday night at the McIntyre Arena.
“We lost our last game, so it was important for us to get off to a quick start,” said Rock assistant coach James Daschuk.
“We started our second line, with (Jordan) Rendle and they scored less than 20 seconds into the game. We got the puck in deep and (Zachary) Kercz laid a huge hit on one of their guys and we had a relentless forecheck. They got the puck to Rendle and he tucked it in right off the hope.
“From that point on, everything went great for us. You kind of start guys strategically and that line hadn’t started in a couple of games. We figured they were hungry.”
Rendle’s 18th goal of the season just 16 seconds into the game put the Rock out to an early 1-0 lead.
Former Timmins Major Alexandre Brisson’s first goal in the NOJHL less than three minutes later expanded the Rock advantage to 2-0.
Cole Gilligan’s fourth goal of the season at the 6:49 mark increased the Rock lead to 3-0.
The Rock got a scare shortly after Gilligan’s goal when Keenan Kennedy, of the Express, ran over goalie Logan Ferrington.
Ferrington, who has twice been out with lower-body injuries this season, was down on the ice for a couple of minutes and had to be tended to by trainer Dan Ansara, but he was able to continue.
Kennedy received a goaltender interference penalty on the play.
“We were kind of hoping the referee would put a stop to it, but that didn’t seem to happen,” Daschuk said.
“It definitely created some scrums and some tension. I think in the second period, that’s where a few of those scrums came from. They (Express players) took some shots at him.
“You don’t want to see that, but Logan is a tough kid and he can take it. Our big defencemen stood up and didn’t let too much bad happen to him.”
Aaron Kerr netted a power-play marker, his second goal of the season, just under eight minutes later to put the Rock in front by four goals.
Brother Ryan Kerr beat Labelle with his fourth goal of the season with 45.96 seconds remaining in the opening frame to make it a 5-0 hockey game.
It appeared that’s the way the period would end, but Cameron Anklewich scored his sixth goal of the season, on the power play, with just 22.06 seconds remaining on the clock to get the Express on the scoresheet.
“It was a power-play goal and I am not happy they got it, but there is not much you can do about it,” Daschuk said.
“We still had a four-goal cushion, so we were still pretty confident.”
The Express were able to carry the momentum from that late goal forward into the second period, but as well as the visitors were able to play, they were not able to cut into the Rock lead.
“There were a lot of penalties and things kind of got out of hand a little bit,” Daschuk said, describing how the teams went from scoring six goals in the opening period to zero in the middle frame.
“There wasn’t too much going on and there wasn’t really any flow. It was a slow period and, as a coach, you don’t really like to see that. We started off so good in the first and we kind of wanted to keep it going, but we just didn’t have the opportunity to do so.”
Things began to get a little chippy in the third period, as the frustration level of the visitors began to build, and Aaron Beauchamp, of the Express, and Mike Norris, of the Rock, dropped their gloves at the 6:38 mark. Each player was given a five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct.
A second bout erupted a few minutes later as Aaron Roschinsky, of the Express, and Joe Olson, of the Rock, started throwing punches behind the Timmins net.
They also received five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts, but Roschinsky drew an extra two minutes for instigating.
The Rock extended their lead to 6-1 just past the 13-minute mark of the final period on a goal officially credited to Brisson, who was on the bench at the time, but actually scored by Aaron Kerr, his second of the night and third on the season.
Bain Cunningham scored his 15th goal of the season, a short-handed marker, less than a minute later to put the Rock in front 7-1.
The Rock added a second short-handed goal 41 seconds later as Aaron Kerr broke in all alone but was stopped by Labelle before centring the puck to linemate Tristan Salesse who potted his 20th goal of the season.
The assist on the play was credited to Kyle Levis, who wears No. 9 and was on the Rock bench at the time, instead of Aaron Kerr, who wears No. 19.
That goal made the final 8-1 in favour of the home side.
Daschuk was impressed with the play of Brisson, who in addition to netting his first goal in the league also had a number of other chances.
“It was great to see,” the assistant coach said.
“I was happy for him. He had been scratched in a couple of games and he got a chance to come into the lineup tonight. He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. You know what you are going to get from him. He finishes every check. He is not going to score any pretty goals. The one he got tonight was from kind of a dirty area.
“He plays on the fourth line, but the guys respect the type of job he does. He knows his role really well. He killed some penalties tonight, as well, so it (scoring his first goal) has to be a big confidence booster for him.”
There were a number of other Rock players who impressed Daschuk, as well.
“Aaron Kerr had two goals for us tonight and I liked Bain Cunningham’s game,” he said.
“He is solid pretty much every game. You know what you are going to get from him.
“On the back end (Kealey) Cummings was good and (Nick) Hautanen and his D-partner (Brennan) McGuire were good.
“(Devin) Panzeca is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, too. He works hard all the time.
“Everyone had a chance to play tonight and everyone played their role really well tonight.”
Express assistant coach Jason Rapcewicz was not happy with Friday night’s result or his team’s play for much of the contest.
“We had a long bus ride here and I don’t want to blame it on the bus, but it does take its toal,” he said.
“When you fall behind 5-0, it is really hard to battle back. I thought we had a decent second period. We ended up tying the period and that’s a big deal for us.
“It is getting a little bit tough to battle through the adversity. Having a young and inexperienced hockey team, we have to work on the little things.
“We are a different team than we were when we were here the last time. We have a lot of good things going on for us, so we just have to focus on fitting the little things.
“Good defensive hockey is where we have to start and then we have got to move forward from there.”
Labelle surrendered eight goals, but he made a number of key saves to keep the deficit at four goals heading into the third period.
“Kevin has been a mainstay for us in net since we picked him up,” Rapcewicz said.
“I think one of the problems we are having is that he has been too much of a cushion for us. We are relying on him to come up big too much when we are lacking defensively.
“He is awesome. He is a great kid. He is great in the dressing room and he is a fantastic goaltender. We just have to help him out a little bit more.”
The Express had a game plan heading into Friday night’s contest, but they were not able to stick to it.
“We wanted to do what we have been successful at for the past three or four hockey games we have played,” Rapcewicz said.
“We have been getting the puck deep, coming out hard and playing a physical game of hockey, but unfortunately tonight we just didn’t have the legs or the body in us to do that.
“Right off the hop out game plan was kind of frazzled or dismembered, I guess you could say, and we just started chasing pucks and trying to stickhandle out of our own zone — all of those little things we need to focus on not doing so we can be a successful team.”
Despite the one-sided loss, Rapcewicz was impressed with the play of a couple of Express players Friday night.
“I thought (Ian) Thompson had a pretty good game,” he said.
“He is a pretty steady Eddie out there and you know what you are going to get from him game in and game out.
“And Keenan Kennedy came out with fire in his belly tonight. He is one of our 20 year olds who wants to see us have some success because it’s his last year.”
Brisson was still smiling following Friday night’s game, pleased that he could help contribute to a Rock victory.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” he said.
“I can’t really explain the feeling. It was just unbelievable. With the help of my linemates Levis and Norris, we got the puck in deep and we were working the corners. The opportunity came and I was able to grab the puck from behind the net, get to the front and bounce her in.”
Brisson and his linemates had a number of other opportunities to put the puck in the net, as well.
“Levis always knows where I am out there,” he said.
“Norris plays like me. We both go in and work hard. We get the puck out and I just love it.”
Even though it was announced Brisson had scored a second goal, he knew all along it was not his.
“It was Kerr’s goal all along,” he said.
“I was on the bench, so there was no doubt about it.”
Ferrington made 27 saves to record the victory for the Rock, while Labelle made 38 stops and was tagged with the loss for the Express.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock will host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. … Forwards Andrew Green and Wayne Mathieu, as well as goalie Matthew Nixon did not dress for the Rock … Devon Debastos backed up Ferrington and wore No. 35 … Friday night’s other NOJHL games saw the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners defeat the Eskis 7-2 in Iroquois Falls, the Crunch edge the visiting French River Rapids 5-4 in Cochrane, Powassan blank the Eagles 6-0 in Sault, Mich., and the Wildcats double the Blind River Beavers 6-3 in Elliot Lake.