Timmins Rock blue-liner Kyle Trottier ties up Hearst Lumberjacks forward Aiden Kalin as goalie Dryden Riley reaches down to smoother the puck during the second period of Friday night’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. The Rock got a power-play marker with five seconds remaining in regulation to edge the Lumberjacks 4-3. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Lucas Lowe’s power-play marker with five seconds remaining in regulation lifted the Timmins Rock to a 4-3 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
The victory earned the Rock a split of their home-and-home series with the Lumberjacks following Thursday night’s 4-1 loss at the Claude Larose Recreation Centre.
“I didn’t like our first 20 (minutes) at all,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry, following Friday night’s victory.
“I loved the last 40 (minutes), just the urgency out of our group. Our compete level was a lot better. We took too many penalties for my liking, but our penalty kill did a great job.
“I thought we dominated that third period, but we broke down a couple of times and they tied it up, stick checking on the penalty kill, at the blue-line and they got one. Then, we just had misreads on the back checking on the second one, but man that’s a very good hockey team over there. They worked extremely hard and we needed to match it and our guys did a good job tonight.”
For Lowe, who deflected Brant Romaniuk’s shot from just inside the Hearst blue-line past Lumberjacks goalie Tristan Boileau, it was his fourth goal of the season.
Things had not started out well for the Rock Friday night, as they were outshot 16-6 in the opening period of play and fell behind 1-0.
Will Robinson, playing his second game in a Lumberjacks uniform after being acquired from the CCHL’s Renfrew Wolves on Nov. 24, scored the first goal of his NOJHL career just past the midway mark in the frame.
The second period belonged to the Rock, however, as they scored three goals to turn a one-goal deficit into a two-goal advantage.
Romaniuk’s fourth goal of the season 1:39 into the second period got the Rock back on even terms.
His linemates, Mason Svarich and Harry Clark each added their 16th goals of the season 1:31 apart later in the frame.
DonHeaven Veilleux’s power-play marker, his fifth goal of the season, cat the Lumberjacks deficit to a single marker just shy of the midway point in the third period.
And blue-liner Julien Trudel got them back on even terms when he netted his second goal of the season at the 9:37 mark.
It looked like the game might be headed to overtime, but Noah Janicki was assessed an interference penalty with 1:15 remaining in regulation, setting the stage for Lowe’s game-winning heroics.
Romaniuk (28, 4-15-19, 4) was filling in for the injured Nolan Ring on the Rock’s top line Friday night and his coach liked what he saw from the 16-year-old forward.
“He was awesome tonight and he has been good for a little bit here,” Perry said.
“I really loved his game and I am super happy for him. He is a skilled player and the biggest thing for him and any other young kid is just learning to compete every single night and knowing what compete means.
“Thursday night, I thought he was good, as well, one of our bright spots and there weren’t many. Tonight, I thought he was really good, getting on pucks, getting them back and keeping plays alive.”
The Timmins product was not the only Rock player to make a favorable impression on their coach.
“Clark and Svarich have been great all season,” Perry said.
“They are really talented players and they have got good motors. Their compete levels were through the roof and they were really good tonight.
“(Rock goalie) Dryden Riley was absolutely outstanding, as well. If it wasn’t for him, this game would have been over in the first period.”
The coach was also happy to have shot-blocking blue-liner Kyle Trottier back in the lineup for both games against the Lumberjacks.
“That (shot blocking) is stuff you can’t teach, either it’s in you or it’s not and it’s in that kid, through and through,” Perry said.
“It is just inspiring. The three shots he blocked on the one penalty kill turned the tide for us. Guys on our bench started realizing, ‘oh my god, that’s what it takes, that’s the kind of urgency, that’s the kind of sacrifice, that’s the kind of dedication we need to win.’
“We are so lucky to have him back. (Assistant coach) James (Daschuk) said to me on the bench, ‘you know Trottier’s back in the lineup when all you hear on the bench is err, that one’s going to hurt tomorrow.’
“That’s him. He wears his heart on his sleeve.”
While Trottier was kept off the scoresheet Friday night, he gave a lesson in shot blocking that had Rock fans cheering loudly.
“I was just coming back (from an upper-body injury), feeling fresh, so the first game Thursday in Hearst was a little difficult but I felt great being able to get in front of those shots tonight for the boys, sacrificing my body,” he said.
“I know my game isn’t very strong offensively, although it is something I have been working on, but being hard to play against in the D-Zone is really my game.”
Trottier admits he takes even more pride blocking shots when the Rock are killing penalties.
“It always puts a smile on my face knowing we can shut down the other team’s power play,” he said.
Trottier doesn’t keep track of how many shots he blocks during a game, but the goalies he plays in front of are fully aware of his contributions to the Rock defensive game.
“They are usually the ones who tell me, ‘hey, I think you had eight blocked shots on that PK (penalty kill),’ so it’s pretty funny,” he said.
“I am willing to do anything for them back there. They keep us in the game all day.”
Rock goalie Dryden Riley stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced to earn his eighth win of the season.
Boileau, who turned aside 30 of the 34 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Romaniuk, Hearst forward Aiden Kalin (two assists) and Lowe … Both the Rock and the Lumberjacks went 1-5 on the power play … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 948 … Friday’s other action saw the Storm blank the French River Rapids 7-0 in Iroquois Falls, the Blind River Beavers bite the Thunderbirds 7-0 in Sault Ste. Marie and the Elliot Lake Vikings double up the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 6-3 in Massey … The Rock will host the Rapids at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m.
“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel