Kirkland Lake Gold Miners netminder Cade McEwen kicks out his right pad to make a save on a deflection by Timmins Rock forward Jordan Picard during the second period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Gold Miners defenceman Parker Allison did his best to distract Picard on the play. The Rock went on to post a 5-1 victory, with Picard’s first-period goal standing up to be the game-winner. The Rock will host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday. Game time is set for 3 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Tyler Planetta scored his first goal of the season and added an assist to help lead the Timmins Rock to a 5-1 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Saturday night at the McIntye Arena.
The victory allowed the Rock (10-14-1-1) to move back into sole possession of fifth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — two points ahead of the idle French River Rapids (9-17-2-0).
Rock coach Corey Beer was pleased to see his team turn in another strong effort on home ice.
“I thought our guys paid good attention to detail and away from the puck, it was probably one of our best defensive games,” he said.
“We did a very good job of boxing out and making (Rock goalie) Eric Jackson’s night pretty easy. I also thought our neutral zone structure was top notch.
“For our guys, coming home and taking care of business at the McIntyre Arena was a good remedy.”
Despite missing six regulars — forwards Derek Seguin and Stewart Parnell, as well as defenders Jared Hester, James Redmond and Eric Paquette, and goalie Tyler Masternak — the Rock dominated the contest from the opening puck drop until the final buzzer.
The Rock employed a strong forecheck to take away time and space from the Gold Miners.
“We addressed that in a video session before the game,” Beer said.
“We wanted to get on top of their defencemen. They have a very skilled group and we wanted to make sure any time they were touching the puck, they had bodies on them. Closing off their time and space was a big priority for us.”
Planetta gave the Rock a 1-0 lead when he beat Gold Miners starting goalie Ryan Winter for his first goal of the campaign at the 2:41 mark of the opening period.
Jordan Picard then netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal eight-and-a-half minutes later to increase the home side’s advantage to a pair of goals.
It was Picard’s seventh goal of the season and second in a Rock uniform, but his first at the McIntyre Arena wearing the maroon, gold and white of the home side.
“There is no greater feeling, really,” Picard said.
“I had been in a little bit of a slump, which really bothered me. I had a bit of trouble sleeping at night. A couple of days ago, I said to myself I just have to play my game, be comfortable and have fun out there.
“Finally, I got the chance and the puck went in the net. (C.J.) Bradburn made a beautiful play at centre ice, battling off about three guys, gained the blue-line and dished the puck off to me. I saw (A.J.) Campbell on the back side and I tried to give him a slap pass, but the D cut it off and it slid off his skate into the far side of the net.”
So, it wasn’t all that geometry he learned in school that helped him calculate the perfect angle to bounce the puck off the D-man’s skate?
“I calculated it pretty quick and it worked out,” Picard said, with a slight chuckle.
The Rock doubled their lead to 4-0 before the second period was four minutes old, as A.J. Campbell potted his second goal of the season and Seth Reuben added his third of the campaign.
That signalled the end of Winter’s night, as Cade McEwen came on in relief for the Gold Miners.
The goalie change briefly slowed the Rock’s roll and Damian Caringi scored his third goal of the season to get the visitors on the scoresheet and spoil Timmins netminder Eric Jackson’s bid for a shutout.
The Rock regained the momentum just over two minutes later, however, as Jace Soroko scored his third goal of the season to make it a 5-1 hockey game.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the third period, making that the final score.
Beer was pleased with the effort put forth by Planetta, who had to leave the last Rock game early after being run into the boards.
“He was battling through some bumps and bruises,” he said.
“His game has been trending upwards since the early part of the season. He has got his feet moving and is playing with more assertiveness in his game. He has a stocky build to him and now he has added that offensive dimension.”
Beer was also happy to see Picard find success in his home rink.
“In my opinion, this was his best game as a Timmins Rock player,” he said.
“I have been very tough on him in terms of his defensive play, but tonight I thought he was incredible. He has bought into the program and he understands where he can take risks and where he can’t. Hopefully, this will be the start of great things for him.”
Defenceman Jun-Yi “Frank” Zhong (19, 0-1-1, 50) made his debut in a Rock uniform Saturday night after being acquired from Waywayseecapo Wolverines, of the MJHL, earlier in the week.
And the 19-year-old, 6-2, 189-pound, Surrey, B.C., native made a positive impression on his new coach.
“He has tremendous gap control,” Beer said.
“He plays with some bite down low and makes a very crisp first pass. He is a very knowledgeable player and wants to be matched up against the other team’s top guys.
“I was very happy with his first game and I think he will fit into our back end mix very nicely.”
A number of other Rock players impressed their coach Saturday night, as well.
“I thought Will Caston on the back end was full marks tonight after a couple of rough games,” Beer said.
“He kept things very simple and played good containment. Sometimes you forget he is just 16 years old.
“Seth Reuben played one of his better games tonight, as well.
“You could go right down the list. I thought our whole team was great. Evan Blane Boissonneault (Kapuskasing Flyers) and Cooper Roussy (Kapuskasing Flyers), as affiliate players, were tremendous. We continue to get good support from our affiliate players.”
The Gold Miners — who were shutout 4-0 by the Crunch Friday night in Cochrane — were also missing a number of players due to injury Saturday night, including top snipers Marshal Nikitin and Kevin Ford.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job at either blue-line tonight,” said Gold Miners coach Ryan Wood.
“We turned pucks over at the offensive blue-line and we turned pucks over at the defensive blue-line and it seemed like every time we turned the puck over at one of our blue-lines it ended up in the back of our net.
“Our D has got to be stronger on the puck and we have got to do a better job of ensuring the puck gets in deep and we have got to make sure we get pucks out of our own zone.”
Wood agreed his team had trouble gaining traction once the Rock took a 2-0 lead.
“It was kind of unfortunate, with the puck bouncing off our back checker,” he said.
“Once one of those goals happens, you know it’s not your night. You just try to hope the game doesn’t get too far away from you, but unfortunately it did for us tonight.
“I commend our guys. They worked hard in the third period and played a little better. Hopefully, we can show what we can do when we come back here on Wednesday.”
Despite the loss, Wood was impressed with the effort put forth by a few of his Gold Miners Saturday night.
“I thought Lucas Lyszyk played well tonight and I thought Parker Allison played well on the back end.
“And Quinn Schneidmiller, one of our newest D-men, is starting to settle in. I thought he played pretty good, but we need better games out of guys like Linden Namagoose. He is a player who is supposed to be one of our go-to guys and he is fighting the puck a little bit right now.”
Jackson turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced to earn his eighth win of the season for the Rock.
Winter, who blocked 12 of the 16 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss for the Gold Miners, while McEwan stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars were Planetta, Picard and Rock defenceman Josh Anderson … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 768 … Saturday’s other action saw the Cochrane Crunch edge the Powassan Voodoos 5-4 in double overtime at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls and the Elliot Lake Wildcats get past the Beavers 2-1 in Blind River … The Rock will be back in action on Sunday when they host the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 3 p.m.