By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
KIRKLAND LAKE – The Timmins Rock got goals from seven different players en route to a 7-5 victory over the Gold Miners in the first half of a home-and-home exhibition series Friday night at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex.
Bain Cunningham’s power-play goal 4:17 into the contest gave the visitors a 1-0 lead 4:17 into the first period.
Despite being outplayed, the Gold Miners rebounded to take a 2-1 lead before the end of the frame.
“The first period, we played really well,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“Our forecheck was incredible. We were on top of them. All four lines were just flying. We hardly played in our defensive zone. We gave them maybe a couple of shots here and there, but nothing serious.
“Then, we ran into penalty trouble late in the period. I think we got five penalties and that was not good. Obviously, they got two power-play goals on us, but honestly, we had dominated that period.”
The Rock stormed back to pot three unanswered second-period goals, however to take a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Marcus Blackned netted the equalizer at the 3:51 mark of the period, before Brandon Major put the Rock in front 3-2 at 8:29 and Cole Gilligan’s unassisted marker extended the advantage to two goals just 15 seconds later.
“The second period, we didn’t take very many penalties, so our discipline was a lot better,” Gagne said.
“Our forecheck was excellent in the second period, as well.”
Corey Sprague’s goal 2:38 into the third period put the Rock in front 5-2, but the Gold Miners responded less than a minute later to cut the lead to 5-3.
Alexandre Brisson scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal at the 8:24 mark of the final period to push the Rock advantage to 6-3.
Wayne Mathieu added an unassisted goal just over a minute later to give the visitors a 7-3 lead.
The Gold Miners added a pair of goals in the second half of the third period, but that would be as close as the home side would come to getting back on even terms.
The only real negative aspect of Friday night’s game, from Gagne’s perspective was the penalties the Rock took and the resulting Kirkland Lake power-play goals that followed.
“That cost us momentum for a while,” he said.
“Other than that, we made a few little mistakes here and there, but for this being our first game playing together, I thought our forecheck was excellent. God, we were really aggressive.
Gagne was pleased to see all four lines chip in on the scoresheet Friday night.
“Even our fourth line, with Gilligan, Blackned and (Nicholas) Hway contributed a couple of goals and played really well,” he said.
“When you are able to generate some offence from all of your lines, it really just lifts the morale for everybody.
“It takes a lot of the pressure off the first and second lines and a game like this is just a confidence builder for everybody.”
While Gagne was pleased with the effort put forth by all of the players the Rock dressed Friday night, there were two in particular he singled out for a little extra praise.
“Tyler Romain and Wayne Mathieu were just relentless out there tonight,” he said.
“They dominated. Even when they were penalty killing, I think they were in the offensive zone for about 30 seconds.
“They really made things happen and they worked hard. Those two were outstanding, definitely.”
It wasn’t just the final score of Friday night’s game that had Gagne smiling following its conclusion.
“Tonight was successful not just because of the victory, but because of some of the little things we were able to work on,” he said.
Caleb Barris played in goal for the first half of the contest and gave up the first two Kirkland Lake goals. Bradley Dobson surrendered three goals to the Gold Miners in the second half of the contest.
Victor-Olivier Courchesne started in net for the Gold Miners and surrendered a pair of goals before giving way to Tanner Emerson who came on to play the second half of the contest.
Heading into Game 2 of the home-and-home exhibition series — Saturday at the McIntyre Arena, starting at 7:30 p.m. — Gagne is not anticipating many changes in terms of the lineup or the game plan.
“We just want to continue to build upon what worked well for us tonight, meaning forecheck, forecheck, forcheck,” he said.
ROCK NOTES — Rock season ticket packages will be available for pickup at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. and from 6 p.m. until the end of the game against the Gold Miners … The Rock are still searching for a few more billet homes for the 2016-17 season. Anyone interested in helping out or seeking more information should email firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure they put billet in the subject line.