Timmins Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy deflects a shot off the stick of Hearst Lumberjacks forward William Neeld up and over the crossbar during the second period of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. McCarthy backstopped the Rock to a 2-1 overtime victory, as they improved to 2-0-0-0 on the young season. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Christopher Engelbert’s goal at the 3:20 mark of overtime lifted the Timmins Rock to a 2-1 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.
It was the second-straight victory of the weekend for the Rock who opened their 2021-22 NOJHL regular season with a 7-3 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners Friday night.
Engelbert, whom the Rock acquired from the OJHL’s Cobourg Cougars in exchange for a player development fee on Tuesday, had a pair of goals in that contest.
And perhaps most impressive, two of his three goals have proven to be game-winners.
“You have to give it to Nic (Pigeon), he went end-to-end and took on two guys,” Engelbert said, describing his game-clinching overtime tally Sunday afternoon.
“I took my time going over the blue-line and made sure I stayed open, kept my distance.
“He put the effort in. That’s all him. He got it right on my tape, no mistake and I put in right in the back of the net.”
The 18-year-old Whitby native conceded it wasn’t easy getting anything past Lumberjacks’ Matteo Gennaro Sunday afternoon, but also expressed appreciation for his team’s goalie, Gavin McCarthy.
“There were a few times where he stood on his head,” Engelbert said.
“We wouldn’t be here (celebrating a victory) without him.”
Engelbert has been in town less than a week, but he hasn’t wasted any time making his mark.
“Timmins is a great town and I love it,” Engelbert said.
“The rink gets loud and you just can’t help but get fired up. We have a great group of guys here. They are making it easy for me.”
While there was plenty of offence Friday night, goals were at a premium Sunday afternoon, thanks in large part to the stellar goaltending McCarthy and Gennaro.
The two puck stoppers combined to produce a scoreless first period, with the Rock enjoying an 11-8 advantage in shots on goal.
In fact, it took until the 12:57 mark of the second period before either squad was able to find the back of the net, with Riley Brousseau’s second goal of the season, a power-play marker staking the Rock to a 1-0 advantage.
The Lumberjacks were finally able to get on the scoreboard, and tie things up, less than five minutes into the third period with Mason Bazaluk netting his first goal of the season with his squad enjoying the man advantage.
That set the stage for Engelbert’s dramatic game-winner, on a nice setup from Pigeon.
Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was pleased with his team’s effort Sunday afternoon.
“They (Hearst) have a heck of a hockey team, a really good hockey team, really structured, really tough,” he said.
“It was just the second game of the season but it really felt like a playoff atmosphere.
“That’s what you have to expect when Timmins plays Hearst, a tight-checking game. It is going to come down to one bounce, one mistake.
“Our guys did a tremendous job, even when Hearst started coming on there at the end of the second and in the third period. Our guys weathered the storm and Gavin McCarthy was great back there.
“This one feels really good.”
The two East Division rivals split a pair of exhibition games with the Rock scoring a 2-1 decision on home ice and the Lumberjacks prevailing 4-3 in Hearst.
Perry wasn’t surprised to see Gennaro turn in a solid performance against his squad Sunday.
“He played great against us in the exhibition game,” he said.
“He played great again tonight, but Gavin McCarthy is a stud. He played phenomenal tonight. He was really calm and did his job. We are super happy to have him on our side.”
Even though the Rock were only able to put two pucks past Gennaro Sunday afternoon Perry was happy with the offensive opportunities his squad was able to generate.
“Ty Gilberds comes to mind,” he said.
“He played a fantastic game. He was a little snake-bitten. He made a great move in the first period, then another great move in overtime with that (toe) drag, went to his backhand and then kind of lost it at the end.
“The chances were there, on both sides of the puck.”
Perry was once again pleased with the team effort, up and down the lineup.
“These aren’t easy games,” he said.
“Our guys stuck with it, worked and battled, believed they were going to get the job done and then ended up pulling it off.
“Obviously, Chris Engelbert is off to a hot start.
“(Bode) Dunford, back there, made a great play defensively late in the third period. He was a workhorse.”
The Rock coach also appreciated the solid effort turned in by Pigeon, who has an NOJHL-leading four assists through the first two games of the season.
“He is an incredible kid and one thing I have noticed about Nic is his motor is always going,” Perry said.
“He is always playing hard and doing the right thing. He is an incredible leader and we are lucky to have him on our side.”
While he would have preferred to see his team skate off with two points, Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin was pleased to see his squad battle back and salvage a point by forcing overtime.
“This is a tough building to play in and for a lot of guys it was their first time playing in front of fans in Timmins,” he said.
“So, it was nice to see the boys get that one point. We are happy with that one point, but in the end we are not satisfied, also.”
Given the success Hearst goalie Liam Oxner has had against the Rock over the years, many fans were a little surprised to see Gennaro get the start between the pipes Sunday afternoon.
“We have two good starting goalies, with Matteo and Liam,” Begin said.
“Liam will get the start in our home opener (Saturday against the Powassan Voodoos), but Matteo played a really great game here last week and again today he gave us a really good chance to win the game.”
A number of Lumberjack skaters impressed their coach, as well.
“I thought our D played extremely well, from Carson Cox to Dylan Ford,” Begin said.
“All our vets played really good games and the rookies stepped up, also.
“Up front, I liked our new player, Riley Klugerman. He made a lot of stuff happen.
“And I thought Liam Doyle was on the puck all night and he got a few chances.”
McCarthy turned aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced to pick up his second win of the season for the Rock.
Gennaro, who stopped 27 of the 29 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were McCarthy, Engelbert and Gennaro … Both the Rock and the Lumberjacks went 1-4 on the power play … Rock blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette was ejected from the game early in the second period after being assessed a two-minute minor for checking from behind and a game misconduct … Sunday’s other action saw the Express roll past the Greater Sudbury Cubs 5-3 in Espanola and Elliot Lake Red Wings edge the Beavers 4-3 in Blind River … The Rock will travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre on Saturday, at 7 p.m., before returning home to face the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m.