By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
ELLIOT LAKE – Captain Jordan Rendle scored a pair of goals in his return to the Timmins lineup Sunday night at the Centennial Arena helping to spark the Rock to a 6-4 win over the Wildcats.
It was the fourth-straight victory for the Rock, who collected a 4-2 win over the Express in Espanola Friday night and a 6-2 win over the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour Saturday night.
With Sunday’s 6-4 victory, the Rock (31-12-3-0) were able to pull within eight points of the idle Cochrane Crunch (34-13-4-1) in the battle for second place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.
And the Rock, who travel to Cochrane for their final regular-season meeting with the Crunch Tuesday night, still have six games in hand on their rivals.
“The first five or six minutes, we weren’t really in tune with our assignments,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“I guess you could say we were a little tired and it was hard to get things going. They outplayed us in the first six or seven minutes of the game.”
It may have taken the Rock a little while to get their legs under them Sunday night, but once they did, they were able to build a 3-0 first-period advantage.
Cole Gilligan got the puck rolling when he netted his 21st goal of the season, with the Rock enjoying a man advantage, at the 14:54 mark.
Bain Cunningham added a shorthanded marker, his 16th goal of the season, less than three minutes later.
Tyler Romain scored his 26th goal of the season exactly one minute later to send the Rock to the dressing room for the first intermission enjoying a three-goal advantage.
“Once we got going and got that power-play goal with just over five minutes to play, we scored shorthanded and all of a sudden it was 2-0,” Gagne said.
“From that point on, we were sitting comfortably most of the game. Near the end of the game, they got a goal to make it a 6-4 hockey game. The, for the last few minutes of the game, they put a little pressure on us.”
It took Wayne Mathieu just 34 seconds of the second period to push the Rock lead to 4-0, as he scored his 24th goal of the season.
That goal spelled the end of the night for Wildcats starting goalie Matt Kostiw, as Justin Richer came on in relief.
Down by four goals, the Wildcats staged a mini-rally, as they cut the deficit to 4-2 on the strength of the 10th goals of the season for both Brett Crook and Jacob Kelly.
Rendle, who missed the first two games of the Rock’s three-game road trip while serving a two-game suspension picked up for a hit-to-the-head infraction in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Crunch, then scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his 26th tally of the season, to put the Rock in front 5-2 after 40 minutes of play.
“That was a big goal by Rendle,” Gagne said.
“We were double-shifting Rendle because he had had the last two days off. He was playing with his own line (with Mathieu and Dean Kiriacou) and also playing on the fourth line (with Maxime Lague and Romain). He was also killing penalties and playing on the power play, so he logged a lot of ice time.
Rendle added his second of the night and team-leading 27th of the season, with the Rock enjoying a man advantage, at the 7:26 mark of the third period.
The Wildcats were not about to roll over and play dead, however, as Kelly netted his second goal of the night and 11th of the season 20 seconds later.
William Bucsis added his seven goal of the season with 3:53 remaining on the clock.
The Wildcats pulled goalie Richer in favour of an extra attacker, but the move failed to create the desired results and the contest ended 6-4 in favour of the visitors.
Like Saturday night, the Rock had a balanced attack on offence.
“We were getting contributions from every line,” Gagne said.
“We were definitely happy about that.”
For the second-straight game, Lague, who picked up a pair of assists in the contest, impressed the coaching staff with his hustle.
“He has got a lot of skill and he is on a roll right now,” Gagne said.
“We were rolling four lines out there and he is really coming around real nice. He was aggressive out there and making things happen.”
A number of other Rock players stood out Sunday night, as well.
“(James) Watier excelled for us tonight,” Gagne said.
“He was competing at a high level and (Spencer) Segui played a regular shift on defence and he was really comfortable back there. He moved the puck well and was making things happen.”
Segui picked up a pair of assists in the contest to give him three points in three games on the road trip.
Albert Rogers stopped 36 of the 40 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rock.
Kostiw turned aside 11 of the 15 shots he faced in his 20:34 of action and was tagged with the loss, while Richer blocked 13 of the 15 shots the Rock fired his way in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock were again without the services of forward Nicholas Hway (illness), who did not make the trip, and defenceman Grant McClellan (illness), who played the first two games but was unable to answer the bell Sunday night … The three stars were Rendle, Kelly and Kiriacou, who picked up a pair of assists … The Rock went 3-8 on the power play, while the Wildcats were 1-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Centennial Arena was 147 … Sunday’s other contests saw the Thunderbirds blank the French River Rapids 8-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, the Soo Eagles derail the Express 9-5 in Espanola and the Rayside-Balfour Canadians edge the Beavers 3-2 in Blind River … The Rock will take Monday off before returning to action on Tuesday when they will travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.