Elliot Lake Wildcats forward Brett Crook appears to have Timmins Rock goalie Eric Jackson at his mercy during the second period of Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena, but Jackson was able to poke check the puck off his stick. With the Rock leading 3-1 at the time, a Crook goal could have made things interesting, but the Rock went on to defeat the Wildcats 4-1 and in the process snapped their two-game losing streak. Jackson was assessed a tripping penalty on the play, but the Rock were able to kill it off. The Rock will host the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntye Arena Sunday night. Game time is set for 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – C.J. Bradburn’s second goal of the season with 47 seconds remaining in the first period stood up to be the game-winner, as the Timmins Rock knocked off the Elliot Lake Wildcats 4-1 Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
The victory helped the Rock (7-12-0-1) snap a two-game losing streak and pull within three points of the idle French River Rapids for fifth place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings — and Timmins has three games in hand.
Rock coach Corey Beer was forced to adjust his lines heading into the contest and he was pleased with the results.
“Any time you are dealing with injuries, and players out of the lineup, you have to juggle lines, and find continuity through a team effort,” he said.
“I thought our guys did a tremendous job, from the back end to the guys up front, of making sure they knew who was with them out there and the strengths of their line and they played to it.”
Clearly, the preparation the Rock put into getting ready to face the Wildcats was paying dividends.
“I have to give a lot of credit to our assistant coaches, James Daschuk and Marc Bisson,” Beer said.
“Those guys did a tremendous job supporting the entire game plan all week. They made sure they walked everything through with the guys and those guys did a great job of executing it for us.”
It was the visiting Wildcats who drew first blood Saturday night, as captain Nick Long was able to beat Rock goalie Eric Jackson for his 12th goal of the season, a shorthanded marker, after teammate Brett Crook’s breakaway attempt had been stopped by the Timmins netminder at the 12:57 mark of the opening period.
It didn’t take the Rock long to get back in even terms, however, as Alexandre Brisson netted his sixth goal of the season, an unassisted marker, less than three minutes later to make it a 1-1 hockey game.
It appeared that would be the way the first period would end, but Bradburn put the home side in front with just 47 seconds remaining in the opening period.
The Rock were able to add to their lead in the second period when Riley Robitaille scored the first goal of his NOJHL career.
Robitaille, who started the year with the GNML’s Timmins Majors, played three games in a Rock uniform earlier this season as an affiliate, but he was appearing in his first game since signing a Junior ‘A’ card.
The Rock rounded out the scoring midway through the third period when Stewart Parnell scored his seventh goal of the season, a power-play marker.
Supplying offence is not normally a big part of Tyler Planetta’s game, but he picked up his first two assists of the season Saturday night — setting up both Bradburn’s game winner and Robitaille’s insurance marker.
“His game has been going shift by shift,” Beer said.
“He is the type of guy who can contribute physically, but he has worked hard in every practice to make himself a complete player, but just a guy who goes out and crashes and bangs. He is out there early working on his skating, working on his puck handling and his shooting ability.”
With Derek Seguin, the Rock’s leading scorer, out of the lineup for a month, or more, with a fractured jaw, Beer knew the team would need others to step up and fill the void and Bradburn certainly did that Saturday night.
“He was unbelievable tonight and he certainly has that offensive ability,” he said.
“We absolutely need him to step up tonight.”
The coach was also pleased with the play of Robitaille and fellow forward Jace Soroko, who made his debut in a Rock uniform.
“You can’t say enough good things about Robitaille,” Beer said.
“He was an absolute horse on the forechek and he scored a real hard-working goal.
“Jace was a real Swiss Army knife for us out there tonight. He played forward. He played D. He did whatever we asked of him. He has a real puck-possession element to his game, as well.”
Jackson was not overworked Saturday night, but a few of the stops he made when the game was tied and when the lead was only one goal, were big ones.
“E.J. is great for us every night,” Beer said.
“He gives us a chance to win all the time.”
The Rock blue-line also enjoyed another solid night at the McIntyre Arena.
“They were tremendous tonight,” Beer said.
“Their transition game was very sharp. You have got guys like Josh Anderson, who logged almost 30 minutes tonight, and Grant McClellan was great.
“Shawn Sloan was pressed into more minutes than usual and Will Caston the same. Obviously, James Redmond for a bit, was great. I thought all of those guys were definitely a key to our success.”
Wildcats coach Corey Bricknell felt his team spent a little too much time in the penalty box Saturday night.
“It’s hard to score goals when you are in the penalty box, taking stupid slashing penalties,” he said.
“I am pretty upset with our lack of discipline, slashing sticks, slashing hands and a parade to the penalty box. You are not going to win when you are in the penalty box.”
Having split their first two games of a three-game road trip, winning 4-3 in overtime in Hearst Friday night after dropping a 5-3 decision in Cochrane Thursday night, the Wildcats had a simple game plan heading into Saturday night’s contest.
“We had a system on our forecheck to create a little bit of pressure on their D to cause turnovers and I think we did that during the first 12 minutes of the first period,” Bricknell said.
“Then, there was a long cross-ice pass we don’t normally make in our end and it gets picked off. They score a goal.
“Then, there was a lost man on the blue-line, no gap control with our defencemen and it’s 2-1.
“It was just downhill from there.”
It was a tough loss for the Wildcats following an emotional overtime victory in Hearst Friday night.
“At the same time, this was our third game in three nights,” Bricknell said.
“This was Timmins’ first game of the weekend and they caught us at a good time.”
Despite the loss, the coach was pleased with the play of a number of Wildcats Saturday night.
“Nick Long, our captain, doesn’t quit no matter what and that’s one of the reasons he is our captain,” Bricknell said.
“He just goes, goes, goes and I thought one of our young defencemen, Andrew Maltby played a solid game except for the one pass he made on the first goal.
“Other than that, I thought he played fairly decent and one of our new defencemen, Mark Perone, played a solid, steady-Eddie game for us.
“Unfortunately, I thought a lot of other guys took the night off tonight.”
Jackson turned aside 20 of the 21 shots he faced to earn his fifth win in a Rock uniform.
Wildcats goalie Logan Sawka was able to block 37 of the 41 shots the Rock fired his way, but he was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Planetta, Bradburn and Robitaille … The Rock did not dress defencemen Jared Hester (lower-body) and Connor Losen (healthy scratch), or forwards Derek Seguin (fractured jaw) and Evan Kentish-Stack (upper body) … Former Rock defenceman Lucas Dolanjski made his return to the McIntyre Arena in a Wildcats uniform Saturday night wearing No. 17. Some fans might not have noticed, however, as the name plate on the back of his jersey read: D-O-N-A-N-J-S-K-I … The Rock went 1-9 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal, while the Wildcats were 0-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 812 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Soo Eagles upset the East Division-leading Voodoos 7-5 in Powassan and the Gold Miners derail the Express 6-1 in Kirkland Lake … The Rock return to action on Sunday night when they host the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)