By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Sunday, November 20, 2016 2:22:42 EST AM
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock cruised to a 6-1 win over the French River Rapids Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
Cole Gilligan and Cory Sprague each scored a pair of goals to pace the attack and Albert Rogers turned aside 30 of the 31 shots he faced from his former teammates in his first start in a Rock uniform.
Rogers was acquired by the Rock on Thursday from the Rapids in exchange for forward Tyler Planette.
“Playing against his former team, he must have had some butterflies,” said Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson, who works with the team’s goalies.
“Playing in front of more than 900 fans, there was likely some nerves there, but he looked very calm and played very well. He controlled his rebounds, which is key in Junior ‘A’ hockey.”
Bisson was naturally happy to see the Rock come out and win their second-straight game to improve to 17-6-0-0 on the season.
“Any time you can come out and beat a team at home in front of a sizeable crowd like this, you have to be happy,” he said.
“Our game plan was to forecheck them early, try to get a lot of shots early and get that all important first goal.
“Scoring the first goal has been important to us. We have been able to do it in the games in which we have been successful.”
Bisson was impressive by the offensive production from Gilligan and his linemates Saturday night.
“That third line has been so important for us,” he said.
“When get some offence from your third line, it just makes things so much easier.”
Sprague was also at the top of his game Saturday night, driving the net and generating chance after change.
“Cory brings it every night,” Bissons said.
“His effort is always among the best on the team, game-in and game-out. He is a guy who brings a lot of energy to our team.”
The Rock scored three times in the first 11 minutes of Saturday night’s contest and did not allow the Rapids to build any kind of momentum.
Marcus Blackned, in his first game back in the lineup after a week-long illness, got the home side on the board when he beat Rapids goalie Korlan Vader at the 3:58 mark of the opening frame for his seventh goal of the season.
“It was really nice to get Marcus back tonight and it will be really nice to get Shanks (Jacob Shankar) back for Wednesday’s game,” Bisson said.
Gilligan then netted his 10th and 11th goals of the season four-and-a-half minutes apart to make it a 3-0 hockey game.
The Rapids finally got on the scoreboard just over three minutes later when Gregory Trudeau-Paquet potted his team-leading 12th goal of the season to cut the Rock lead to two goals heading into the first intermission.
Sprague scored the only two goals of the second period, with his 14th of the season coming with the Rock on the power play and his 15th of the campaign coming while the home side was playing shorthanded.
“Like with a lot of our victories, I think the key was getting the puck down low, cycling it and working hard on the forecheck,” Sprague said.
“Doing that was what allowed us to win today’s game.”
The 20-year-old Hugo, Minn., native agreed getting off to a fast start was another to key to Saturday night’s victory.
“One of the things we have been working on is trying to come out strong every game,” Sprague said.
“It’s huge when you can get the other team to lose their morale before the game even gets going too much.”
At 5-8 and 170 pounds, Sprague is far from the biggest player on the Rock roster, but that doesn’t prevent him from doing what it takes to put the puck in the back of the net.
“Getting to the hard areas to score goals sucks sometimes, but it pays off in the long run,” he said.
The Rapids (1-22-1-1) were playing their third game in three nights and they did not appear to have a lot of energy Saturday night.
“They had to be a little bit tired, so it was nice that we were able to jump out in front of them early in the game,” Sprague said.
“They are a hard team to play against, but we were happy with the outcome of tonight’s game.”
Leading 5-1 after 40 minutes of play, the Rock continue to shut down any Rapids offensive attempts and appeared to expand their lead to 6-1 with about six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third period.
The referees ruled, however, that Vader had smothered the puck before Gilligan got it past him for what would have been his third goal of the night.
The Rock would add a sixth goal before the end of the period though, as Stewart Parnell scored his third goal of the season with 18 second remaining in the contest.
Bisson was impressed with the work both Blackned and Parnell did on that final marker of the night.
“The pass Marcus made on that last goal was amazing,” he said.
“What a pass. He found a guy who was itching for a goal and it couldn’t have happened to a better kid than Stewie Parnell. Stewie does it all, offensively, defensively. He sacrifices his body for the team, so it was nice to see him get his name on the scoresheet.”
Parnell also picked up a pair of assists in the contest and did a lot of little things well that might have gone unnoticed by the fans.
“The things Stewie does out there do not go unnoticed by the coaching staff and by his teammates,” Bisson said.
“The average fan probably doesn’t notice some of the positives about Stewie’s game, but he is very important to our team.”
Rapids coach Moe Mantha declined the opportunity to comment on his team’s performance following the contest.
Rogers, who stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced, picked up the victory for the Rock.
Vader turned aside 41 of the 47 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Sprague, Gilligan and Parnell … Rock defenceman Brendan Campbell and Rapids defenceman Nick Shuman were kicked out of the game after receiving five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts in the second period. Shuman also received a two-minute minor for instigating … The Rock did not dress goalie Matthew Nixon (lower-body injury), defenceman Spencer Segui (upper-body injury) and Shankar (serving the fourth game of a four-game suspension) … Dylan Dallaire, who plays for the Timmins Midget Hockey League’s Schumacher Cubs, backed up Rogers Saturday night … The Rock were 1-7 on the power play, while the Rapids were 0-7 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 948 … Saturday night’s other NOJHL games saw the Eskis rally for a 7-5 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in Iroquois Falls and the Cochrane Crunch double the Eagles 6-3 in Sault, Mich. … The Rock will return to action on Wednesday night when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.