By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
IROQUOIS FALLS – Caleb Barris made 37 saves to backstop the Timmins Rock to a 6-2 win over the Eskis Wednesday night at the Jus Jordan Arena.
The Martins Ferry, OH, native was particularly impressive in the third period when the home side peppered him with 15 shots — many of them coming on the power play as the Eskis tried to get back into the contest.
“I felt pretty good in the crease tonight,” Barris said.
“I got comfortable in there. They got a lot of shots in the first period, but I settled well into my groove.
“The guys played really well in front of me tonight. Our defence kept the pucks to the outside. They did everything right and I did everything right.”
Barris was impressed by the fact the Eskis kept coming even when they fell behind by three and then four goals in the third period.
“The further on the game went, the more the intensity increased,” he said.
“They battled hard to the end. Iroquois Falls played great tonight. We just had a really great game to beat them.”
There was one point during the third period when the Eskis had a two-man advantage that Barris was sprawled across his crease with every Eskis and Rock player in his end piled on top of him.
“Things like that make you play harder,” he said.
“It forces you to elevate your level of play and work hard.”
Barris had a little extra incentive to play well Wednesday night, as he parents made the trip up to watch him play.
“I think that helped out a bit,” he said, with mom and dad smiling a few feet away.
All kidding aside, the goalie knows just how important it was for the Rock to rebound from last week’s 8-3 loss to the Cochrane Crunch.
“It was huge,” Barris said.
“We needed to get that momentum going because this was the start of three games in five days. We have a game in K.L. on Friday night and then a game against the T-birds on Sunday afternoon.
“Hopefully, we can keep things rolling through the next two games.”
The Rock jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Jacob Shankar’s fourth goal of the season.
The speedy winger blocked a shot just inside his blue-line, raced after the puck, broke in all alone and tucked the puck just past the outstretched skate of Eskis starting goalie Trevor Hawkes.
Iroquois Falls battled back to tie things up just over three minutes later when Blake Holowaty was left all alone in front of Barris and beat him for his fourth goal of the season.
Just 14 seconds later, Wade Auger potted his first goal of the season to put the Eskis in front 2-1.
The home side was not able to take that lead to the dressing room, however, as Cory Sprague scored his sixth goal of the season, the first of four Rock power-play markers, to tie things up at 2-2 heading into the first intermission.
Two more power-play goals in the second period allowed the Rock to take a 4-2 lead.
Shankar netted his second of the night and fifth on the season at the 7:20 mark, as he scored off a scramble in front of the Eskis net.
Shankar was forced to leave the game with an upper-body injury before having a chance to net a third goal.
Tyler Romain’s fourth goal of the season, less than two minutes later, put the visitors in front by a pair of goals.
Defenceman Jared Hester’s blast from the point on the power play early in the third period eluded Hawkes for his sixth goal of the season.
Marcus Blackned completed the scoring less than three minutes later, when he potted his fourth goal of the season.
That goal spelled the end of Hawkes’ night, with Artem Bortovskiy coming on in relief for the Eskis.
As one might expect, Eskis coach and assistant general manager Jamy Bernier was not a happy camper following Wednesday night’s contest.
“We have got to stay out of the box and stop taking stupid penalties,” he said.
“They are costing us. Up until last weekend, we probably had one of the strongest PKs in this league, but that has slipped away from us. That’s an adjustment we are going to have to make.
“Other than that, we are just going to have to stay disciplined and keep our composure. Calls are going to be made and you have to live and learn from them.”
Even though prior to Wednesday night’s contest the Eskis had score more goals than last year and allowed almost a goal a game fewer, those stats had not yet translated into victories for the squad.
“We have improved at both ends of the ice, but at the end of the day, we have not improved enough,” Bernier said.
“I think tonight is the first game where we haven’t been outshot by the other team, or allowed more than 30 shots a night.”
Bernier did not take a lot of consolation from the fact his squad kept working right to the final buzzer despite being down three and four goals in the final period.
“There is no question, that goaltender across the ice (Barris) saved his team’s bacon tonight,” he said.
“It is the first time we have put that many pucks to the net and we didn’t get the bounces and we created lots of chances, but we have to be more than relentless.
“Being relentless and not giving up is one thing, but playing with a lead would sure be nice right now.”
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was pleased with most aspects of Wednesday night’s contest, especially the penalty kill.
“We had an extra man on the PK today and his name is Caleb Barris,” he said.
“It almost made it a five-on-five situation. He took care of the penalty killing tonight. He took care of the penalty killing tonight. He really helped us out. He made a big difference.
“Our lineup was a little depleted tonight. We had three players who were not in the lineup and that made a big difference in terms of chemistry on the lines. The players who did play, did their jobs. They kept things simple and our goaltending made a difference.”
The Rock were missing defenceman Nick Hautanen (serving a one-game suspension), forward Wayne Mathieu (upper-body injury) and Alexandre Brisson (undisclosed) and also lost Shankar partway through the contest.
The only real negative from a Rock perspective was the number of power plays they gave the Eskis.
“We have got to stay away from the penalties,” Gagne said.
“We did get away from it, for the most part, and then we had one individual who took three in a row and that didn’t help.
“Then, near the end of the game, I don’t know why, but we got back to taking stupid penalties. I think 10 of the shots the Eskis got in the third period were on the power play.”
On the other end of the special-teams spectrum, Gagne was pleased to see his squad net four power-play goals Wednesday night.
“We hadn’t done that for a while,” he said.
“We had been going 1-7, or 1-8, so that really helps out. If you practise over and over, sooner or later the puck is going to start to go in for you.”
A number of Rock players, in addition to Barris, impressed their coach Wednesday night.
“Young Shankar played really well even though he only played half a game,” Gagne said.
“He suffered an upper-body injury, so we were short four guys.
“Steward Parnell just digs and digs and does his job out there. Penalty killing, he is always in the right place at the right time.
“We only had four defencemen tonight, but all in all, it was a decent game.”
Romain also stepped up his game with Mathieu out of the lineup.
“He had more energy than anybody else out there and he was making things happen tonight,” Gagne said.
“Penalty killing, power play, five-on-five, he was great and even on the bench he was really vocal.”
Barris turned aside 37 of the 39 shots he faced to earn his third victory on the season for the Rock.
Hawkes, who stopped 16 of the 22 shots the Rock fired his way, was tagged with the loss for the Eskis. Bortovskiy stopped all three shots he faced in relief.
NOJHL NOTES — The three starts of the game were Barris, Romain and Jordan Rendle … The Rock were 4-6 on the power play, while the Eskis were 0-9 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Jus Jordan Arena was 411 … The Rock will return to action Friday night when they travel to Kirkland Lake for a game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex. Their next home game will be on Sunday afternoon when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 2 p.m.