Timmins Rock forward Derek Seguin unsuccessfully attempts to gain control of a loose puck in front of Kirkland Lake Gold Miners netminder Ryan Winter as teammate Jordan Picard looks on during the first period of Wednesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. It would not matter, however, as the Rock went on to post a 7-2 victory, snapping their seven-game winless streak. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock rolled over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 7-2 Wednesday night at the McIntyre Arena to snap a seven-game winless streak.
Four power-play goals from the NOJHL’ second-worst special teams unit helped ignite the Rock offence Wednesday night, as the home side dominated the contest from the opening puck drop to the final buzzer.
The Gold Miners did manage to find the back of the net first in the contest, as Tyler Fyfe gave the visitors the lead at the 13:36 mark of the opening period.
The Rock were able to tie things up before the end of the frame, however, as Jordan Picard scored a power-play marker, his first of two goals on the night and 15th of the season with 1:39 remaining to play in the period.
Riley Robitaille’s fifth goal of the season just over five minutes into the second period gave the Rock a lead they would not surrender the rest of the night.
Grant McClellan then scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his third of the season, just past the midway mark of the period, with the Rock on the power play, to increase the home side’s advantage to 3-1.
“Every goal is important,” he said.
“This one just happened to be the game winner. I was just trying to get the puck on the net to give the boys a chance to win a game. I got lucky. The puck had eyes and it squeaked its way through. Our forwards got a lot of good traffic in front of the net.”
The Rock have had trouble scoring goals all season long, but they got three from defencemen in Wednesday night’s contest.
“We had a lot of confidence tonight and the guys played hard for 60 minutes,” McClellan said.
“We got the job done. It was nice to see the guys playing with a little bit of confidence with the puck tonight. We had a little bit of swagger on the blue-line.”
The Trenton, Mich., native was happy to see the Rock finally end their seven-game winless streak Wednesday night.
“It was huge,” McClellan said.
“It was important to get the puck rolling before the playoffs start. The regular season is dwindling down and we are battling for every point we can get. I think this game was a real turning point for us.”
The real backbreaker came with 2.48 seconds remaining in the frame when C.J. Bradburn netted a power-play marker, his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
Fyfe’s second goal of the night and 34 of the season, with the Gold Miners enjoying the man advantage, cut the Rock lead to 4-2, but that would be as close as the visitors would come to getting back on even terms.
Defenceman Jun Yi (Frank) Zhong ripped a slap-shot from the point past Gold Miners goalie Ryan Winter with the Rock again on the power play, for his first goal of the season at the 16:29 mark of the third period to increase the home side’s lead to 5-2.
Picard then struck for his second goal of the night and 16th of the season just 28 seconds later.
And defenceman Eric Paquette added his first goal of the season with 17.3 seconds remaining on the clock to make the final score 7-2 in favour of the Rock.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk felt his squad had control of Wednesday night’s contest from the opening puck drop right through until the final buzzer.
“We came out buzzing and got off to a great start,” he said.
“The last couple of games, we had gotten off to slow starts, so it was good to see us get off to a fast start tonight.
“We pushed the pace against these guys early and even when they scored the game’s first goal, we shook it off. We knew it was still early in the game and there was a lot of hockey left to be played. It wasn’t a big deal.”
Teams never like to surrender goals late in periods and the Rock victimized the Gold Miners not once but three times Wednesday night.
“In the second period, we had a face-off in the offensive zone with just over nine seconds left and we still managed to score,” Daschuk said.
“Our strategy was pretty simple tonight, shoot the puck and get it on the net. Our forwards did a tremendous job of getting traffic in front of their net tonight and our D-men did a great job of getting the puck to the net, finding lanes or banking the puck off the end wall.”
Daschuk, who normally coaches the Rock blue-liners, didn’t think the unit was trying to show the team’s forwards how it is done when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
“They were just having fun tonight,” he said.
“I think our D combined for nine points tonight. It was nice to see Zhong and Paquette get their first goals of the season tonight. When your D-men put up nine points, obviously, good things are going to happen.
“Their wingers were giving our D a lot of room tonight and in practice on Tuesday we worked on offensive zone shots from our defencemen, finding lanes, quick releases, stuff like that. Obviously, it is starting to pay off for us.”
McClellan continues to be a rock on the Timmins blue-line, although Daschuk felt he might have been a little too Bobby Orr-line in Wednesday’s contest.
“Mac is Mac,” he said.
“You can say good things about him all night long. He’s a beast and he is all those good clichés you want in a hockey player. He got the Rock Star jacket tonight (given to the team’s top player each game), too.
“He has been our go-to guy for a while now, even when things aren’t going so good, so I am happy for him.
“He carried the puck maybe a bit too much tonight, for my liking, but we kind of let the guys have fun tonight. We just had a feeling it was going to be one of those nights.”
The assistant coach was impressed with the effort of a number of other Rock players Wednesday night, as well.
“(Tyler) Maternak in net let that first goal in, but shrugged it off,” Daschuk said.
“He played pretty good and it was nice to have Stewart Parnell back in the lineup tonight. He brings an element of calm with him to the game.
“(Paul) Spadafora was pretty good tonight, too. The list goes on and on. You put up seven goals it’s not hard to find guys who contributed. Bradburn was awesome again tonight.
“It seem like (Derek) Seguin had the puck on his stick a lot tonight. He just had it all the time. There was no way he wasn’t coming out of the corner with the puck. His puck pursuit was great tonight and he was just a workhorse.”
Gold Miners assistant coach Tom Sinclar was not happy with his squad’s effort Wednesday night.
“We didn’t get off to a very good start,” he said.
“I saw Timmins play on Monday (a 7-5 loss to the Cochrane Crunch) here and they didn’t have any jump at all, but tonight they came out with a lot of jump, got the lead and we didn’t generate much time in their zone.
“They were full measure for the win. I would have liked for the score to have been a little bit closer, but we just didn’t generate any offence.
“We took some penalties for our guys mouthing off and that’s the kind of thing you don’t need. We are not a high-scoring team and when we get behind, it is hard for us to come back.”
The Gold Miners’ lack of pressure on the Rock D-men on the point was likely a result of the style the visitors like to play.
“We play aggressive down low,” Sinclair said.
“Up top is open, but our guys have got to get up to the top and get in the shot-blocking lanes. We didn’t do a good job of it. Timmins did a better job of getting the puck high than we did of being up on them.”
The Gold Miners assistant coach was not too impressed with any of his players Wednesday night.
“Not really,” Sinclair said.
“I saw little glimpses of things we have been trying to get guys to do, but generally, we just had a bad night.”
With the win, the Rock — who hold down fifth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — improve to 18-28-3-3 on the season, while the third-place Gold Miners fall to 22-19-7-4 on the year.
Masternak turned aside 18 of the 20 shots fired his way to pick up his eighth win on the season and sixth in a Rock uniform.
Winter blocked 22 of the 26 shots directed his way by the Rock in his two periods of work and he was tagged with the loss. Cade McEwen, who was in net for the third period, stopped 13 of the 16 shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were McClellan, Picard and Zhong … The Rock did not dress forwards Wesley Weir (serving the second game of a two-game suspension) and Tyler Gilberds (illness), as well as defencemen Shawn Sloan (illness) and Collin McGuire (healthy scratch) and goalie Eric Jackson (lower-body injury). Rock coach Corey Beer served the first game of the two-game suspension he picked up for being ejected from Monday’s 7-5 loss to the Crunch … The Rock went 4-7 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-4 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 711 … Wednesday’s other contest saw the Eagles blank the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 5-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. … The Rock will return to action Saturday night when they travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m.