By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
SUDBURY – Captain Jordan Rendle scored twice and dished out an assist to lead the Timmins Rock to a 7-5 win over the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex Wednesday morning.
It was the second game of the NOJHL Showcase for both squads after the Rock opened with a 4-2 loss to the Cochrane Crunch and the Eskis topped the Powassan Voodoos on Tuesday.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was, for the most part, pleased with his team’s effort.
“Rendle really played well for us today and the whole team played really well,” he said.
“All three-and-a-half lines we had were effective. The only real negative was that we took too many penalties again. We gave them nine penalties and that’s losing hockey in my books.”
The Eskis were able to capitalize on three of their nine power-play opportunities, while the Rock went one for three with the man advantage.
“Other than that, we weren’t really in control, but we were in a good space with our game. We were working the puck down low and our forechecking was excellent.”
Gagne was also impressed with the play of the Eskis, who battled right up until the final buzzer.
“They work hard and they are relentless,” he said.
“They just don’t stop.”
Gagne was also pleased to see the Rock continue to get balanced scoring Wednesday morning.
“We had scoring from all of our lines and Bain (Cunningham) even managed to score into the empty net,” he said.
Cunningham, who normally patrols left wing on the Rock’s top line, was moved back to defence for a recent game and found himself playing yet another position on Wednesday.
“We had Bain playing centre today on the third line, with (Cole) Gilligan and (Alexandre) Brisson,” Gagne said.
On Wednesday, the two sides exchanged first-period goals, with Brisson scoring his third goal of the season to put the Rock in front 1-0 and Dillan Bruce netting his sixth of the season to tie things up for the Eskis.
Brisson was ejected from the game a short time after scoring his goal as he was assessed a double minor for slew footing and a game misconduct.
Wayne Mathieu’s seventh goal of the season, early in the second period, put the Rock back in front 2-1, but the Eskis tied things up and then took the lead with a pair of goals two-and-a-half minutes apart.
Jack Speer scored his fourth goal of the season, a power-play marker, and defenceman Kyle Sutherland potted his second goal of the season with the teams playing at even strength.
Rock starting goalie Caleb Barris was lifted following that goal in favour of Matthew Nixon and the move provided the desired switch in momentum.
The Rock responded with a pair of goals nine seconds apart late in the frame to retake the lead.
Rendle netted the first of his two goals in the contest and sixth on the season with the Rock enjoying the man advantage. Then Jacob Shankar scored his seventh goal of the season to put Timmins in front 4-3 heading into the second intermission.
Eskis starting netminder Trevor Hawkes was given the hook following the fourth Rock goal, with Artem Bortovskiy coming on in relief.
After just 1:02 in the Eskis’ net, Bortovskiy was pulled with Hawkes re-entering the contest.
Barris came back into the game to start the third period for the Rock even though Nixon had not been scored upon after taking over for the starter.
“We were shorthanded, playing four against five late in the second period and Nixon took a roughing penalty,” Gagne said.
“So, he didn’t play the third period.”
Tyler Romain added his seventh goal of the season early in the third period to increase the Rock lead to two goals.
The Eskis refused to roll over and play dead though and captain David Osbourne scored the first of his two goals on the night and fourth on the season, with Iroquois Falls on the power play, to close the Rock advantage to just one goal.
But Rendle netted his seventh goal of the season, an unassisted marker, just 41 seconds later to extend the Rock lead to 6-4.
Osborne’s second of the night and fifth on the season, also scored on the power play, pulled the Eskis back to within a goal of tying things up with under two minutes to play.
That would be as close as the visitors would come to getting back on even terms, however, as Cunningham scored his second goal of the game into an empty Eskis net with Hawkes on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Nixon, who stopped all six shots he faced during his 9:59 in the Rock net, picked up the victory. Barris, who started and finished the contest, stopped 23 of the 28 shots fired his way by the Eskis.
Hawkes, who started the game and finished it for the Eskis, turned aside 27 of the 33 shots he faced. Bortovskiy stopped the only shot he faced in his 1:02 in the Iroquois Falls net.
Tuesday night, Konnar Dechaine scored a pair of goals — including the game-winner — to lead the Crunch past the Rock.
“We played a lot better than we had the previous game against them (an 8-3 loss at the McIntyre Arena on on Sept. 28), but we ran into stupid penalties, again,” Gagne said.
“I seem to be repeating myself, but in the third period that was the difference. It really hurt. That was a real momentum killer.
“It came back to haunt us because we played well enough to win that game. We easily could have been up 4-1 going into the third period.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the contest on Cole Gilligan’s fifth goal of the season, a power-play marker, midway through the first period.
Decheaine’s ninth goal of the season, also scored on the power play, less than three minutes later tied things up at 1-1.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the second period although Rock forward Mathieu was awarded a penalty shot at the 9:28 mark. Crunch goalie Jacob Burhans was up to the test, however, and the attempt failed.
Brandon McReynolds’ 10th goal of the season, just 1:27 into the third period, put the Crunch in front 2-1.
Dechaine then added his 10th goal of the season, a power-play marker, at the 8:34 mark to increase the home side’s advantage to two goals.
Leejay Meguinis potted his second goal of the season six minutes later to put the Crunch in front 4-1.
The Rock were able to pull within two goals when Grant McLellan netted his first of the season on a power play with just 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
That would be as close as the Rock would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Crunch skated off with the 4-2 victory.
Burhans turned aside 27 of the 29 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his second win in as many starts in a Crunch uniform.
Barris stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Wednesday’s game were Rendle, Eskis forward Blake Holowaty and Cunningham … Two members of the Rock — Barris and forward Jacob Shankar — are among the NOJHL’s Three Stars of the Week. The other star goes to Canadians goalie MacKenzie Savard … The latest CJHL Top 20 rankings has the Crunch sitting at No. 6 and the Rock at No. 19. The Voodoos received an honourable mention. The Steinbach Pistons, of the MJHL, remain at No. 1. … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they host the Soo Eagles at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.