Rock stonewalled against Espanola

SUDBURY – The Timmins Rock bombarded Espanola Express goalie Adam Scott with 54 shots en route to a 4-1 loss Wednesday afternoon at the at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.

In addition, the offensively challenged Rock hit seven goalposts during their second and final contest at the NOJHL Showcase.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

It was the third-straight loss for the Rock, who have only been able to muster two goals in the past 180 minutes of action.

Still, coach Corey Beer was pleased with the way his skaters took the game to the Express Wednesday afternoon.

“I could not be more happy with the way we played throughout the game,” he said.

“You outshoot an opponent 54-19 and you hold them to three shots in the third period, you are going to win the game 99 times out of 100. Unfortunately for us, today was the 100th game and we lost.

“I couldn’t ask for a better performance from our players. The hockey gods just weren’t with us today.”

The Express jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period when Jeb Paulsen beat Rock starting goalie Brendan Bishop for his first goal of the season at the 6:47 mark.

The home side was able to add to that advantage late in the opening period when Joel Grandbois beat Bishop for his first goal of the campaign — a marker that would prove to be the game-winner.

Ironically, the Rock acquired Grandbois from the Express prior to the start of the 2016-17 NOJHL season in exchange for Tristan Salesse, but he refused to report and opted to play high school hockey last season.

Cole Csorbay’s fifth goal of the season at the 7:16 mark of the second period put the Express in front 3-0 and chased Bishop from the Rock net in favour of Eric Jackson.

The Rock were finally able to get on the scoreboard 10:09 into the third period when defenceman Jared Hester potted a power-play marker, his third goal of the season.

That would be as close as the Rock would come to getting back on even terms, however, as even after the squad pulled Jackson in favour of an extra attacker late in regulation they were unable close the spread further.

Then, Isaac Tkachuk iced things for the Express when he deposited his second goal of the season into the empty Rock net to make the final 4-1.

Beer — like everyone in the arena — was impressed by the play of Scott in the Express net Wednesday afternoon.

“He stood on his head,” he said.

“He made some blind saves he had no business making. We ran some set plays in the third period and had some opportunities, but the puck would hit the shaft of his stick, or fall right into his glove.

“He was incredible, but I thought our skaters were just as good, if not better, but the execution just wasn’t there.”

Despite the Rock’s lack of puck luck through the first 13 games of the regular season, Beer has not lost faith in his team’s ability to put the puck in the net.

“Like I said, you play this game every night of the week and the guys are going to come out with a positive result most nights, but their goalie made some incredible saves,” he said.

“We were absolutely dominant in the offensive zone and the neutral zone. They had no answer for any of the plays we were running. It is just the way the puck bounces sometimes. I told the guys how proud I was of their effort today.

“If we continue to play that way night-in and night-out, we are going to have a chance to win every single time. We didn’t lose today’s game, it was taken from us.

“We will continue to work on the little small things and try to get better.”

Beer was impressed by the effort put forth by a number of Rock players Wednesday afternoon.

“We blocked a bunch of shots today and I have to give credit to a bunch of the guys,” he said.

“Evan Kentish-Stack , Tyler Planetta, Connor Hoffman, those guys have got some bruises on them from blocking shots and doing the things we needed to have a chance to win.

“Grant McClellan and James Redmond, on the back end, also did a nice job blocking shots.

“There weren’t too many guys out there who didn’t do their jobs.”

Beer and his coaching staff plan to put Wednesday’s loss and the two that came before it in the rear-view mirror.

“We are not going to dwell on this,” he said.

“It is going to be a launch pad for when we get things going in a positive way and we will go from there.”

With Wednesday’s victory, the Express improve to 1-11-0-0 on the season but they remain in last place in the West Division standings, while the Rock fall to 4-8-0-1 and they hold down last place in the East Division standings.

“They have a very hard-working team,” Beer said.

“They jumped on some good rebounds early on against Brendan and they were able to capitalize.

“They are a team that was on the wrong side of some scores early on, but they certainly aren’t a bottom-feeding team.”

Scott stopped 53 of the 54 shots the Rock fired his was to pick up the victory for the Express, while Bishop, who turned aside seven of the 10 shots he faced was tagged with the loss. Jackson blocked all eight shots he faced in relief of Bishop.

NOJHL NOTES — The Rock were 1-5 on the power play, while the Express were 0-3 with the man advantage … Wednesday’s other action saw the Soo Thunderbirds blank the Cochrane Crunch 3-0, the Soo Eagles edge the Hearst Lumberjacks 4-3, the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners shutout the Elliot Lake Wildcats 5-0 and the Powassan Voodoos double the Blind River Beavers 6-3 … the Rock will return to action on Sunday afternoon when they travel to French River for a game against the Rapids. Their next home game with be on Friday, Oct. 20, when they host the Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.