Rock suffer heartbreaking loss

SUDBURY – A heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Rayside-Balfour Canadians Sunday night at the Chelmsford Arena brought to an end a four-game road trip for the Timmins Rock.

Ryan O’Bonsawin’s third goal of the season with 4.1 seconds remaining in regulation robbed the Rock of the opportunity to collect at least a single point in their fourth game in four nights.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

“It was a bit of a heartbreaker, for sure, but those things happen,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.

“Other than that, I thought we played pretty well tonight. The first period was a bit of a sort-it-out match, with both teams kind of feeling each other out. We hadn’t played them since the NOJHL Showcase.

“We played pretty well in the first period and in the second period we really pushed the pace and took the play to them.

“Then, in the third period, we tried to hang on, but it was a bit of a see-saw match and unfortunately we had a bit of a breakdown and they were able to sneak one in there right before the buzzer.”

Still, finishing the gruelling trip with four of a possible eight points isn’t all bad — especially for a team that had only won two games on the road in the first half of its NOJHL schedule.

“Coming into this road trip, if you had said we are going to take four of the eight points, we would have been happy with that,” Beer said.

“We knew that fifth point, and potentially a sixth point, was on the table tonight, but unfortunately that’s not the way the hockey gods had things planned.”

Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes of play, it was the Rock who found the back of the net first Sunday night.

Defenceman Jared Hester scored a power play marker, his fourth goal of the season at the 12:19 mark of the second period.

That 1-0 lead held up until the 5:52 mark of the third period when Kyle Liinamaa scored his ninth goal of the season to knot things up at 1-1.

The Canadians took their first lead of the night just under five minutes later when James White scored his 13th goal of the season to make it a 2-1 hockey game.

The Rock were able to get back on even terms two-and-a-half minutes later, however, as Wayne Mathieu scored a shorthanded marker, his ninth goal of the season to tie things up at 2-2.

That set the stage for O’Bonsawin’s game-winning heroics.

The penalty-filled contest saw the Rock assessed 37 minutes and Canadians 36 minutes, not counting misconducts and game misconducts — which don’t count toward penalty minute totals.

“It was a very chippy game,” Beer said.

“We play a very aggressive style and we are a pesky team that likes to play good defence. That can frustrate teams that want to play good offensive hockey.

“We thrive on that kind of aggression, but unfortunately we weren’t able to strike too many times on the power play.

“We knew with tonight being our fourth game in four nights, it was going to be a bit of a grind for us, but we certainly didn’t have great execution on the power play, for sure.

“That has been a bit of an Achilles heel of ours for some time now. It seems to haunt us.”

The coach had no complaints about the Rock’s abilities to kill penalties and score shorthanded goals.

“Our PK (penalty kill) is great and we get quality minutes out of all of those guys,” Beer said.

“Will Caston was sick tonight, but Caston, (Shawn) Sloan and (Grant) McClellan are out there all the time on the penalty kill along with Hester and the first two over the boards up front every time are (Linden) Spencer and (Evan) Kentish-Stack.

“Those two are incredible and we got good quality minutes out of (Seth) Reuben, Mathieu. I could go on and on. There is a good commitment there on our PK for our guys who front shots and take away the other teams’ top guns.

“Wayne (Mathieu) gave us some life with his shorthanded goal. It’s too bad we couldn’t get the game to overtime to get a point.”

Even though the Rock were playing their fourth game in four nights, they still managed to outshoot the Canadians, even in the third period.

“I think we have one of the hardest working teams in the league,” Beer said.

“We knew we were going to have a couple of days off after this trip, so the guys were really able to focus on playing well tonight.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, Beer was pleased with the effort put forth by most of his Rock players Sunday night.

“Quite honestly, I thought our whole team was great tonight,” he said.

“Jordan Picard had another great game, the same with Derek Seguin, C.J. Bradburn, Wayne Mathieu, Evan Kentish-Stack, Linden Spencer and Paul Spadafora. Those guys were all awesome.

“Wesley Weir probably played his best game for us, as well.

“Our back end played big minutes all weekend and Eric Jackson stood on his head again tonight.

“I am very proud of the way our guys competed through these four games. I am glad we don’t have any more four in fours. It is really good to get this trip out of the way.

“If this is the way we are going to play hockey moving forward, we are certainly going to cause some upsets and give some teams hard nights for the rest of the year. This is a pretty tenacious group.

The loss proved costly for the Rock, as it — combined with the Hearst Lumberjacks 6-1 win over the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake — knocked them out of fourth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.

The Rock (15-22-1-2) now trail the Lumberjacks (16-18-2-0) by a single point and Hearst has four games in hand.

With the win, the Canadians (23-12-2-1) pulled to within three points of the Blind River Beavers for second place in the West Division standings.

Canadians goalie Jean-Marc Brisson turned aside 41 of the 43 shots the Rock fired his way to pick up his third win of the season and first in a Rayside-Balfour uniform.

Jackson, who blocked 37 of the 40 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were O’Bonsawin, Brisson and Hester … Rock forward A.J. Campbell and Canadians defenceman Ethan Lavallee were ejected from the game early in the third period after they were each assessed five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts. At the conclusion of the game Rock forward Riley Robitaille was ejected from the contest after receiving a five-minute deliberate attempt to injure major penalty, a five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct. Canadians defenceman Zachary Snow was also banished after he was handed a five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct … The Rock did not dress forward Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury) or defencemen Will Caston (illness), Eric Paquette (lower-body injury) and James Redmond (upper-body injury) … The Rock went 1-10 on the power play, while the Canadians were 0-7 with the man advantage and surrendered a shorthanded goal … Official attendance at the Chelmsford Arena was 189 … Sunday’s other action saw the Lumberjacks dump the Gold Miners 6-1 in Kirkland Lake and the Rapids upset the Cochrane Crunch 4-3 in French River … The Rock will return to action on Sunday when they host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 3 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Rob and Caleigh Fera: