By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Tristan Salesse’s second-straight two goal game helped propel the Timmins Rock to a 5-3 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
The victory gave the Rock a split of the two-game, home-and-home, exhibition series that began with an 8-2 setback in Kirkland Lake Friday night.
Saturday night’s result was a stark contrast to that contest in many regards.
For starters, the Rock struck first Saturday night — after spotting the home side a 7-0 advantage 24 hours earlier — and Timmins exited the opening frame with a 2-0 advantage.
“I have just been going out, working hard and giving it everything I have got every shift,” Salesse said.
“I had been playing with Ravinder (Shokar) and Mike (Norris), but lately I have been rolling with another line, also. We have all just been committing to our objectives, working hard and grinding it out.”
Salesse agreed the difference between Saturday night’s game and Friday night’s contest was like night and day.
“It just took a couple of periods (Friday night) for us to find ourselves and start to gel as a team,” he said.
“After that happened, we started meshing and everything fell into place.”
The Terrace Bay native felt it was important for the Rock to get off to a solid start Saturday night.
“That was really important,” Salesse said.
“When we came out and we saw all the fans and stuff that really helped us feel at home and the boys came out a lot stronger than we did in that first game. We still have a lot of stuff to work on and we are going to get better throughout the season.”
Salesse put the Rock in front 1-0 when he beat Gold Miners goalie Tyler Mazzocato at the 9:17 mark of the opening frame, bringing the 450 fans in attendance to their feet.
Salesse then provided a screen in front of Mazzocato just under four minutes later when defenceman Jared Hester wired a point shot past the goaltender for a power-play goal.
The Gold Miners were able to get back on even terms in the second period and take the momentum away from the Rock.
It took just 20 seconds for Declan Conway to put a shot past Rock Logan Ferrington on a play that was allowed to continue as Conway celebrated in the corner to the right the Timmins goalie.
When the whistle sounded a few seconds later referees Darren Thib and Chris Gauthier, along with linesmen Owen Rigg and Steve Swain converged to discuss the play before ruling the puck had indeed entered the net.
Less than two minutes later the Gold Miners got the equalizer when Logan Fredericks netted a power-play goal.
Try as they might, however, the Gold Miners were not able to net a go-ahead goal and the period ended with the two squads deadlocked at 2-2.
The Rock were able to retake the lead shortly after the start of the third period, as Tyler Romain scored 1:43 into the final frame.
Shokar provided the home side with a little insurance about seven minutes later when he roofed a hard wrist shot over the shoulder of Mazzocato to make the score 4-2 in favour of the Rock.
That goal would prove to be quite important, as the Gold Miners were not about to go down to defeat without a fight.
Former Abitibi Eskimo Jamey Lauzon scored a power-play goal with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third period to make it a one-goal contest.
The Gold Miners pulled Mazzocato in favour of an extra attacker, but Salesse was able to seal the deal for the Rock when he deposited his fourth goal in two exhibition games into the empty Kirkland Lake net.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was a lot happier with his squad’s effort Saturday night than he was with the previous contest.
“Most teams talk about compete level and that is one of the things we touched on before the game,” he said.
“We kind of built on our third period from last night’s game. We talked at the end of last night’s game about the need to compete, compete, compete.
“Our effort was better tonight and we were competing every shift. We were winning the little battles, coming back hard and picking up the right man at the right time.”
Certainly the Rock played with a lot more structure to their game than they had the previous night in Kirkland Lake.
“Tonight, we were more focused and knew what to expect,” Daschuk said.
“We knew we had to come out and play hard. If not, the score would have been similar to last night’s.
The Rock were on the right end of more hits Saturday night than they had been 24 hours earlier, as well.
“Friday night, they took the body to us,” Daschuk said.
“I give them a lot of credit for doing that, but tonight the tables were definitely turned and we took it to them. We saw their frustration in the first couple of periods. A couple of their guys were getting upset and getting all fired up.
“I guess those guys are not use to it and that was kind of our game plan, to come out hitting.”
Daschuk was impressed with the offensive prowess of Salesse for the second-straight night.
“Sale is an awesome kid and he just seems to be at the right spot at the right time,” he said.
“Our guys all know he can put the puck in the net and they look to feed it to him. He is not the flashiest guy but he just seems to have a knack around the net. If the puck is on his stick within 15 or 20 feet of the net, it is probably going to go into the net.
“He has had two great games for us so far and that is what we expect from a guy like him who was here last year and he averaged almost a point-and-a-half a game.”
Another player who worked diligently in the offensive zone Saturday night without much reward was forward Devin Panzeca, who was held to just one assist.
“Panz is one of those guys who is relentless on the puck,” Daschuk said.
“He works hard every shift and when he comes off the ice you know he is absolutely tired. He is one of those guys you look to when things aren’t going well because he is going to work hard no matter what.”
Despite posting an 8-2 victory on home ice Friday night, Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur noted he was hoping to see better execution from his squad Saturday night.
“No, I didn’t get what I was looking for, not at all,” he said following Saturday’s contest.
“Guys thought they could just walk in here and beat this team like we did last night but that is not going to happen. This league is too good now.
“You have to give it to Timmins. They came better prepared tonight and they executed better. They made us play their style of game. They played well and we weren’t ready. It is just a reversal of what happened last night.”
So, what do the Gold Miners have to do to attain the level of execution Lafleur is seeking?
“I think it is just a matter of the guys gelling but at the same time some of our guys get off their game too easy,” he said.
“They are not disciplined enough mentally to handle the opponents after the whistle. We got off our game very quickly and some of our guys are going to have understand that they either play their game or they are not going to play at all. That is just the way it is going to go. I need guys who are mentally very strong. I can’t get guys who are going to start getting into these matches after the whistle where they talk.
“We were just off our game plan tonight because of it and some of the guys are going to have to pick it up mentally.”
NOJHL NOTES —The next home exhibition game for the Rock will be on Friday, Aug. 28, when they host the Rayside-Balfour Canadiens at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m. … The Iroquois Falls Eskimos will play their first exhibition game Sunday night against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre in Cochrane.