By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock scored early and often en route to an 11-3 win over the Blind River Beavers at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night.
In fact, the Rock had established a 3-0 lead before the game was four minutes old and by the time the buzzer sounded to end the first period of play the Rock had doubled their advantage to 6-0.
Zachary Kercz, with this 19th and 20th goals of the season, and Jordan Rendle, with his 23rd and 24th goals of the campaign, each had a pair of goals in the opening frame.
Aaron Kerr, with his first of three goals on the night and eighth of the season, and Cole Gilligan, with his fifth goal of the campaign also scored in the first period for the Rock.
“We were coming off a couple of good road games, so we wanted to keep the momentum going,” Rendle said.
“Coming out hard in the first period was definitely a heart breaker for them. We got a lot of momentum under our belts right away.”
Rendle started the game playing on a line with Kercz and Bain Curnningham, who finished the night with five assists, but most of the lines were juggled as the Rock advantage continued to grow.
“We have a lot of chemistry in the room and that really helps when you get on the ice in different situations,” he said.
Rendle admitted that as the game progressed it become more difficult to stay focused on doing the little things right and sticking with the program.
“It was a little hard, but that’s what hockey is all about,” he said.
“There are going to be games like this and we are going to have to keep our composure and keep our heads in the right spot. We just need to make sure we don’t change our game, regardless of the score.”
The Rock are riding an impressive streak that has seen them win four-straight games and six out of their past seven.
“Our work ethic has really improved and we have added some good pick-ups, such as Aaron Kerr,” Rendle said.
“A lot of good stuff has been happening for us lately and, like I said, we have had good chemistry off the ice and it has led to good chemistry on the ice.”
Beavers starting goalie Matt Blattenberger was chased from the net after allowing three goals on just four shots, with Martin Milolsavich coming off the bench in relief at the 3:49 mark of the first period.
Beavers coach Brad Barton didn’t have to look to far to figure out what went wrong during the first period.
“The scored on three of their first six shots and that kills you,” he said.
“Then, they scored on three of their next five shots and that really put us behind the 8-ball.
“We didn’t come out with enough effort and we got outplayed in the first period.”
Whatever Barton said to his players during the first intermission certainly got their attention.
“Having such a young team, I have got realize sometimes when the score gets a little bit high, these guys are very inexperienced,” he said.
“We have only got one guy with Junior ‘A’ experience on the team, so we have got to play it shift by shift. Whatever happened in the past, we have to kind of just forget that and move forward and do the best we can, try to win periods, win shifts.
“If we do that, in the long run we are going to be fine.”
The Beavers put up a much better fight in the second period, but the Rock were able to increase their lead to 8-0 on Kerr’s second goal of the game and ninth of the season and Kyle Levis’ fourth goal of the campaign.
Blind River finally got onto the scoreboard with just 14.46 seconds remaining on the clock as Alex Kidd scored his third goal of the season, a power-play marker, to ruin Matthew Nixon’s bid for a shutout.
Rock assistant coach James Daschuk was pleased to see his team continue its strong play of late.
“We began playing really well about a month before Christmas,” he said.
“During the games leading into the break and in our games since the break, we have been playing really, really well.
“We are kind of riding a wave right now. There are ups and downs during the course of a season but right now we are on an up.”
Leading 8-1 heading into the final period, the Rock added a pair of goals early to hit double figures.
Ryan Theriault found the back of the Beavers net for his 16th goal of the campaign and then Kerr completed his hat-trick by notching his 10th goal of the season.
The home side’s play got a little slopping from that point on, as Cole Murray broke in all alone on Nixon to score his 10thgoal of the season and cut the Rock advantage to 10-2.
Then, with the Rock down two men, former Cochrane Crunch defender Alex Dajai scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play to pull the Beavers to within seven goals.
Timmins wasn’ done yet, however, as affiliate played Jace Soroko scored his first goal in his first game in a Rock uniform to make the final 11-3.
Even though the Rock were not at their best during the third period, Daschuk is not too worried about any bad habits carrying over to Saturday night in Cochrane.
“When you get up 10-1 it is hard to stay focused and keep your head in the game,” he said.
“Anybody who has played the game of hockey knows how difficult it is to keep your focus 100% during a game like this.”
It was another night when the Rock’s best players were their best players.
“We had a couple of guys (Rendle and Cunningham) who had five-point nights and Kerr had a hat-trick,” Daschuk said.
“Kercz had four points, as well. Those are the guys who expect to put up points and they did. Our guys that we expect to shut down other guys, did that, too.
“When you are in the middle of hot streak, like we are, everybody has to do their job, stick to their strengths, and that’s what I think we have been doing really well.”
Soroko, who plays for the Great North Midget League’s Timmins Majors, has practiced with the Rock a number of times this season, but Thursday night was his first NOJHL contest.
“It was a good experience, playing with the bigger boys,” he said.
“It was a little nerve wracking, but I have been doing pretty good lately and I have a little bit of confidence.”
While Soroko was officially credited with the Rock’s 11thgoal, he is not so sure he actually scored it.
“I think they made a mistake. I should have gotten the assist on the play, not the goal.”
Time will tell if the scoring play will eventually be changed, or not, but either way, it’s Soroko’s first NOJHL point.
“It feels good,” he said.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to pick up a point in my first game, but I worked hard and I am happy I got one.”
Nixon made 19 saves to earn the victory for the Rock, while Blattenberger was tagged with the loss after stopping just three of the six shots he faced. Milolsavich turned aside 37 of the 45 shots the Rock fired his way.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock were without the services of goalie Logan Ferrington (upper-body injury), forward Tristan Salesse (serving the fifth game of a seven-game suspension) and forward Wayne Mathieu (upper body). In addition, forwards Devin Panzeca and Mike Norris are no longer with the team pending transactions … The Rock went 1-3 on the power play, while the Beavers were 2-9 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night was 517 … The Rock will travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Saturday night and then return home to host the Iroquois Falls Eskis at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon … The Beavers will continue their three-game weekend road trip with a stop in Cochrane Friday night and Iroquois Falls Saturday night.