FRENCH RIVER — The only thing more turbulent than the winter storm blanketing Northeastern Ontario on the weekend is NOJHL’s East Division standings.
Even after Sunday’s abbreviated action was completed, just nine points separated the first-place Hearst Lumberjacks (32-15-6-1) and the fifth-place Powassan Voodoos (30-19-1-1).
The only two NOJHL games not postponed by the weekend weather on Sunday saw the third-place Timmins Rock pull away from the Rapids in the third period and go on to post a 7-3 win in French River at the Noelville Arena, while the second-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners knocked off the Beavers 4-1 in Blind River.
Only a single point separates the Rock (32-19-3-) and the Gold Miners (31-16-3-3) after the former completed a three-game road trip with a record of 2-1-0-0 on the weekend.
Captain Derek Seguin, who had three goals in Saturday night’s 5-4 win over the Rapids in French River, added two more goals Sunday afternoon, while affiliate player Rhys Chiddenton — making his NOJHL debut — also found the back of the net twice and added a helper.
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead Sunday afternoon, thanks to blue-liner Josh Anderson’s 10th goal of the season.
Connor Loft, who accounted for all of the Rapids’ scoring in the contest, prevented the visitors from taking a lead into the intermission, however, as he scored his pair of power-play markers, his ninth and 10th goals of the season, late in the frame as the home side enjoyed a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of play.
It took the Rock just 55 seconds to get back on even terms after the puck dropped to start play in the second period, with blue-liner Owen Shier potted his fifth goal of the season.
Chiddenton followed with his initial NOJHL tally six minutes later to put the Rock back in front 3-2.
Seguin added his first of the afternoon and 32nd of the season 33 seconds later to increase the Rock advantage to a pair of goals.
Following that goal, the Rapids opted to pull starting netminder Niko Manetas, with Carson Murison — who went the distance for the home side in Saturday night’s loss — coming into the game in relief.
Loft’s third power-play marker of the game and 11th goal of the season with just 55 seconds remaining in the middle frame pulled the stubborn Rapids back to within a single goal after two periods.
The third period was all Rock, however, with Seguin netting a power-play marker, his second goal of the afternoon and 33rd of the season, at the 58-second mark.
Just over four minutes later, Matt Capisciolto found the back of the net for his 12th goal of the campaign to extend the Rock lead to 6-3.
And then, at the 14:28 mark, Chiddenton netted his second goal of the afternoon and season to make the final score 7-3 in favour of the visitors.
Following the weekend action, the Lumberjacks sit atop the standings with 71 points and two games left on their schedule. They are followed by the Gold Miners (68 points, three games remaining), the Rock (67 points, two games remaining), the Cochrane Crunch (63 points, two games remaining), the Voodoos (62 points, five games remaining) and the Rapids (31 points, three games remaining).
Rock goalie Tyler Masternak, who stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced, earned his NOJHL-leading 28th win of the season.
Manetas, who blocked 24 of the 28 shots he faced in his 27:14 in net, was tagged with the loss for the Rapids.
In his 32:46 in net, Murison turned aside 30 of the 33 shots the Rock directed his way.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Chiddenton, Loft and Seguin … The Rock did not dress forwards Linder Spencer (undisclosed), Benjamin Jossinet (undisclosed) and Gage Tremblay (undisclosed) … The Rock went 1-6 on the power play, while the Rapids were 3-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Noelville Arena was 333 … Sunday’s other two NOJHL contests — Soo Eagles vs Rayside-Balfour Canadians and the Espanola Express vs the Soo Thunderbirds — were postponed because of the weekend storm … The Rock will travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners Saturday night before returning home to close out the 2018-19 regular season campaign against the Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 2 p.m.
Game Photos courtesy of Dal Photography