By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Rock stunned the visiting Powassan Voodoos 9-1 at the McIntyre Arena Thursday night.
After spotting the Voodoos a 1-0 lead just 58 seconds into the contest on an unassisted marker by defenceman Eric Nagy, the home side roared back to score five-straight goals and build a four-goal advantage before the first intermission.
“Our penalty killing was incredible tonight,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“Perhaps our best penalty killer was our goalie Matthew Nixon. He made a big difference. The only goal they got on him, I think he would like to have it back. After that, he could have lost confidence, but he rose to the occasion.”
Cole Gilligan’s firs goal of the season, just under eight minutes after Nagy had put the visitors in front, got the Rock back on even terms.
Captain Jordan Rendle then netted what would prove to be the game-winning marker, his second goal of the season, midway through the period.
Just over two minutes later defenceman Jared Hester netted his first of three goals on the night, a power-play marker, to increase the home side’s lead to 3-1.
Power-play goals by Gilligan and defenceamn Nick Hautanen extend the Rock advantage to four goals before the end of the first period.
Voodoos coach Scott Wray pulled starting netminder Nate McDonald following the opening 20 minutes, but his replacement, Nicholas Campbell, didn’t fare much better.
Despite being outshot 26-6 in the second period, the Rock scored three unanswered goals to expand their lead to 8-1.
Hautanen netted his second-straight goal, this one at even strength, at the 4:22 mark.
Jacob Shankar then added his second goal of the season, a power-play marker, before Hester found the back of the net for his second of the night and third of the season with just over a minute remaining in the second period.
Hester then completed his hat-trick with less than five minutes remaining in the final frame.
Netting a third goal was in the back of the soft-spoken blue-liner’s mind, but he had been focusing his defensive responsibilities.
“I saw an opportunity and I just took it,” he said.
“I was just in the right place at the right time tonight and I got lucky that my shots were finding the right spots.”
In addition to being named as one of the game’s three stars, Hester was also recognized by his teammates for being the hardest worker on the squad.
“It feels great,” he said.
“It is nice to be recognized by my teammates.”
Wray was not happy in the least with the effort put forward by his Voodoos Thursday night in Timmins.
“We were awful tonight,” he said.
“We got pushed around. We looked scared. We looked timid. There are not enough adjectives to sum it up.
“Timmins did a good job of getting traffic in front of our net and getting to the hard areas to score goals from.
“We have put up 50 shots a game for the past five games and yet we have only been able to score a handful of goals. That just goes to show you we are not going to the hard areas to score goals.
“I am not taking anything away from Timmins tonight. They played a smart home game. They were in our face. They were aggressive in the corners. They were hard on their forecheck and they made some of our players look average.
“It is a bump in the road and we get to play less than 48 hours from now, so we have just got to leave it here and forget about it, go back work.”
Despite the one-sided loss, Wray has not lost faith in his Voodoos and he knows they are capable of playing much better hockey.
“We have a young team and this is a process,” he said.
“You have to take things one day at a time. This isn’t the end of the world. Yes, this is a 9-1 loss, but we have to learn from it. The game is over. We can’t do anything about it.”
Gagne realizes his Rock caught the Voodoos on a night when they were not at their best.
“You know they are a better club than they showed tonight,” he said.
“We got lucky tonight. We scored five goals that were all top shelf.”
There are not too many times when beating a club 9-1 is bad thing, but given that the Rock will be in Powassan for a game against the Voodoos Sunday night they might regret the one-sided score of Thursdayֹ’s contest.
“We are really going to have to be ready for Sunday’s game against them,” Gagne said.
“I know that for a fact, but we are not going to change anything. We are going to forecheck, we are going to get shots on net and get traffic in front of the net.
“Tonight, that’s what we did. We got traffic in front of their net and our shots were getting through.
“We rolled four lines the whole game and I have to give a lot of credit to our third line (Gilligan, Alexandre Brisson and Marcus Blackned). Our third line got two quick goals right away and they made a difference.”
Getting five goals from the blue-line corps was a bonus Thursday night, as well.
“There is no secret to it,” Gagne said.
“Get the puck on the net and good things are going to happen, especially when we have a good presence in front of their net. There were quite a few of our goals that their goalies couldn’t see. You can’t really stop the puck if you don’t see it, so credit to our defence, but credit also to our forwards for having a great presence in front of their net.”
Nixon turned aside 49 of the 50 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Rock.
McDonald, who stopped 12 of the 17 shots Timmins fired his way in the first period, was tagged with the loss for the Voodoos. Campbell blocked 11 of the 15 shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — Forward Stewart Parnell, who missed the first two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury, made his debut in a Rock uniform Thursday night and picked up a pair of assists … The Rock went 4-8 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 0-8 with the man advantage … Official attendance was 527 … the three stars were Nixon, Hester and Gilligan … Thursday night’s other NOJHL contest saw the Crunch thump the Elliot Lake Wildcats 6-2 in Cochrane … The Rock will travel to French River for a game against the Rapids Saturday night and then visit Powassan for a game against the Voodoos Sunday night. The next home game for the Rock will be on Wednesday night when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.