By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock rolled over the French River Rapids 7-1 Thursday night at the McIntyre Arena to snap their four-game winless streak.
Seven different Rock players found the back of the net, as the home side pulled to within one point of the second-place Cochrane Crunch in the NOJHL East Division standings.
Rock goalie Al Rogers, acquired from the Rapids in a Nov. 17 trade, had a relatively quite night earning his second-straight victory against his former teammates.
“It’s always fun when you play against old friends,” he said.
“I thought we battled hard tonight and we were focused the entire game. We never took our foot off the gas pedal.”
The Rock had focused on the little details of their game during practice this week and it appeared to pay off Thursday night.
“Our guys did a really good job of keeping them to the outside tonight,” Rogers said.
“It is a little tough to stay focused in games like this, but at this level you have got to be accountable. You have to make sure you are always ready for every shot.”
The offensively challenged Rapids were able to stay with the Rock through 20 minutes of play and trailed just 2-1 heading to the first intermission.
Tyler Romain’s 21st goal of the season, just 1:16 into the contest, gave the Rock a 1-0 advantage, but Alexander Goettliche’s first goal of the season just over two minutes later got the Rapids back on even terms.
Defenceman Patrick Gazich’s second goal of the season late in the frame restored the Rock’s one goal advantage prior to the end of the period.
The Rock scored three unanswered goals in the second period to build their lead to 5-1.
Nicholas Hway’s third goal of the season just over five minutes into the frame made it 3-1 for the Rock and captain Jordan Rendle added his 20th goal of the season 48 seconds later to put the home side up by three goals.
Jacob Shankar added his 11th goal of the campaign late in the period to send the two teams to the dressing room for the second intermission with the Rock in front by four goals.
The Rapids showed a little fight in the third period, but the Rock got a power-play goal from defenceman Spencer Segui, his fourth of the season, to extend their lead to 6-1.
It appeared that would be the way the game would end, but defenceman Nicholas Hautanen scored his fourth goal of the season with 39 seconds remaining in the third period to make the final 7-1.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk agreed his team demonstrated a lot of patience by not losing their focus once their lead grew to three or four goals.
“We came out of the first period up 2-1, but even though we were only up a goal, I still thought we had a really good first period,” he said.
“The last couple of games, we hadn’t really been sticking to our game plan, so it was important for us to get back to basics tonight.
“We only had three lines tonight and one spare, but everyone was into the game. Everyone was working hard and we just seemed to be in control. I thought we had a good game from the first puck drop to the final buzzer tonight.”
Daschuk was particularly impressed with the play of Steward Parnell Thursday night.
“I thought he had a fantastic game,” he said.
“He seemed to be buzzing all the time and had the puck on his stick a lot of the night and he set up a beauty goal (Gazich’s second of the season) coming around the net and making a nice pass out front.
“I thought (James) Watier on the back end had a pretty solid game, too, and his partner (Brendan) Campbell, was pretty good, as well. That pairing was good. I thought all of our defencemen really stepped up tonight. We had been a little bit hard on them the last couple of games, so it was a good bounce back game for those guys.”
The Rock were missing defenceman Jared Hester Thursday night and his upper-body injury may keep him out of the lineup for a little while.
Timmins Majors forward Evan Kentish-Stack got into his second game as an affiliate player for the Rock Thursday night.
“He is a very smart player and I had the chance to coach him in bantam,” Daschuk said.
“He just needed a game and a couple of practices to observe. Anything you tell him and anything he sees, he gets it right away. He was a little bit more confident tonight, knowing our system a little bit better.”
Daschuk also coached Rapids goalie Scott Adams in bantam, when the Sudbury native was a member of the Timmins Eagles.
“There were a few times tonight when (Rock coach and general manager) Paul (Gagne) and Beezer (assistant coach Marc Bisson) and I looked at each other and said, ‘How did he make that save?’” he said.
“Scott is a real gamer and he doesn’t like to get score on. It doesn’t matter what the score is, that kid is going to come at you all the time. For a 2000 birth year to play in this league and make some of the saves he did tonight is pretty impressive and I am very happy for him.”
Adams was one of the few Rapids players who earned a little praise for Rapids coach Moe Mantha following the contest.
“Our goalie played really well tonight and he made some really big saves,” he said.
“We had some mental breakdowns and I think our goaltending was probably the best part of our game tonight.”
Having lost their top two offensive threats — forwards Caleb Rich (to the Halifax Mooseheads, of the QMJHL) and Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (upper-body injury) — scoring goals is not coming easy for the Rapids.
“That’s not excuse,” Mantha said.
“That’s where we need some other players to pick up the slack, but if they want to stay on the outside and not go to the net, we are not going to score goals. Our young guys are going to have to mature and grow, go into those tough areas and get shots. We have too many young players who like to stay on the outside.”
The Rapids have one of the youngest lineups in the CJHL and the club is clearly experiencing some growing pains.
“We showed our inexperience and our immaturity,” Mantha said.
“We play a good game and all of a sudden we get frustrated. Then we get impatient and we try to do things as individuals and we pay the price.
“We are still making some of the same mistakes we were making back in September. It is something that is getting very tiresome.”
Rogers stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced to pick up the victory for the Rock.
Adams blocked 33 of the 40 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the contest were Shankar, Romain and Parnell, who picked up a pair of assists … Referees Stewart McLeod and and Dan Clermont called just three minor penalties in the contest, one against the Rock and two against the Rapids. The Rock went 1-2 on the power play, while the Rapids were 0-1 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 454 … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they will host the Rayside-Balfour Canadians at the McIntyre Arena as part of Hockey Day in Timmins. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.