Timmins blue-liner Bode Dunford scored a pair of power-play goals and added an assist to help lead the Rock to a 6-2 win over the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake Friday night. With the win, the Rock improve to 4-0-1-0 on the season and pulled to within two points of the NOJHL East Division leading Powassan Voodoos. The Rock will return to action on Tuesday when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Blue-liner Bode Dunford scored a pair of goals and added an assist to help the Timmins Rock dump the Gold Miners 6-2 at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.
The Peterborough native was at a loss trying to remember the last time he had a two-goal or three-point game.
“It was probably a couple of years ago, back in Minor Midget, or Major Bantam,” he said.
“It has been a while.”
Dunford, who now has six points (two goals, four assists) in five games, finished the abbreviated 2020-21 NOJHL campaign with 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 20 games.
“Since the start of the season, my confidence has really improved,” he said.
“I am seeing the ice a lot better and making plays. Everything has been going well, so far.”
Friday’s victory allowed the Rock (4-0-1-0) to pull within two points of the NOJHL East Division-leading Powassan Voodoos (5-0-1-0), who dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the visiting Hearst Lumberjacks.
Rookie forward Nolan Ring got the Rock on the scoreboard first Friday night when he notched the first of his squad’s four power-play markers just past the midway point of the opening period.
It was the first NOJHL goal of the Timmins native’s career.
The lead didn’t hold up long, however, as Nicklas Albrecht, who was acquired by Kirkland Lake from the Blind River Beavers in exchange for fellow forward Dakota Seamon on Thursday, got the Gold Miners back on even terms just 25 seconds later.
Dunford’s first goal of the night and season, also a power-play marker, restored the Rock’s one-goal advantage a minute and a half later and they took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
“I got a pass out from (Nicolas) Pigeon and I just shot it five-hole,” Dunford said, describing the goal.”
“It went right in because Ringer (Ring) screened it.”
Even though the Rock were only up by a single goal after 20 minutes of play they totally dominated the opening frame, outshooting the Gold Miners 14-3.
Riley Brousseau netted the Rock’s third power-play marker, his third goal of the season, less than five minutes into the second period to put the visitors in front 3-1.
Ryan Evenhuis’ unassisted tally, his second goal of the season, pulled the Gold Miners back to within a single goal at the 12:20 mark of the frame, but Liam Wells’ second goal of the season, also an unassisted marker put the Rock in front 4-2 seven seconds later.
That’s the way the score remained when the buzzer sounded to end the second period.
The Rock added a pair of unanswered third-period goals to seal their victory.
Dunford notched the first of those two makers, again with the Rock on the power play, to push his goal totals for the game and season to two.
“My second goal was a nice cross-ice pass, also from Pigeon, and it went in right side, just below the glove,” he said.
With a pair of goals under his belt, Dunford’s mind naturally turned to thoughts of a hat-trick.
“When I got back to the bench, Cameron Dutkiewicz said, ‘You have got to go for the hatty,’” he said.
“I decided to go for it, but I couldn’t quite get it. I just wanted to make sure not to get scored on, as well, to close the game out.”
Then, with just under three minutes remaining in the contest, Dylan McElhinny scored the first goal of his NOJHL career to close out the scoring and make the final 6-2 in favour of the Rock.
Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson was pleased with the effort he saw from his squad Friday night.
“It was a great effort,” he said. “The power play was going. We had four power-play goals.”
That was clearly a big improvement over the 0-3 performance of the Rock power-play unit in Sunday afternoon’s home-ice 5-4 overtime loss to the Voodoos.
“We definitely did some work on it in practice this week,” Bisson said.
“We had a look at a few of the previous games, what hadn’t been working against Cochrane and Powassan and made a few adjustments.”
Asked what changes had the biggest impact on the unit, the assistant coach indicated they just simplified things.
“It was just a matter of getting shots through and finding lanes,” Bisson said.
“Bode Dunford had two rockets from the point, with a lot of traffic, people in front of the net, making it difficult for the goalie to pick up on pucks.
“When we had chances, we were there and on rebounds, willing to take some punishment to make a play or score a goal.”
The assistant coach felt the Rock’s fast start helped set the pace for the rest of the contest.
“We really came out ready to play,” Bisson said.
“We really gave them a good push in the first period and while the goals didn’t necessarily come right away we definitely made an impact right off the bat.
“We took it to them pretty good in the first period and had a lot of good chances we didn’t bury.”
Bisson sees a lot of similarities in the offensive growth of Dunford in his second year in a Rock uniform and that displayed by former Rock blue-liner Eric Moreau in 2020-21.
“It often happens for players after their first year of Junior ‘A’ hockey,” he said.
“When they come back, you just see a huge difference in those players. They know the work they have to put in during the summer to be successful.
“Bode is no different. He put in the work this summer and he is one of our leaders. He was absolutely phenomenal tonight.”
Bisson was also pleased to see Ring and McElhinny notch their first NOJHL goals Friday night.
“Ringer had a nice release on the power play and it was nice to see him get that first goal,” he said.
“He is a very skilled player and you maybe don’t notice the small things he does, but he is in great position. On and off the ice, he is just a model Timmins Rock player.
“He is not big in stature, but he is very important to this team.”
A number of other Rock players impressed their assistant coach Friday night, as well.
“Riley Brousseau had a pretty good game for us, as did some of the usual suspects,” Bisson said.
“Pigeon (two assists) and Tyler Schwindt (two assists) were very active out there and Tyler Patterson added another assist.
“And Gavin McCarthy made a few big saves in the third period for us. He was really good for us tonight. He doesn’t get 40 or 50 shots a night, so sometimes it is hard to stay focused and be ready for those breakaways, but he really stood tall for us tonight.”
McCarthy turned aside 23 of the 25 shots he faced to record his third victory of the season.
Nicolas Alvarez, who was making his first start in a Gold Miners uniform, turned aside 42 of the 48 shots the Rock directed his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Dunford, Brousseau and Alvarez … The Rock went 4-8 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 0-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex was 185 … Friday’s other action saw the Lumberjacks edge the Voodoos 3-2 in Powassan, the Rapids hold off the Cochrane Crunch 4-3 in French River and the Beaver knock off the Red Wings 5-2 in Elliot Lake … The Rock will return to action on Tuesday when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.