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Rock visit Crunch Friday

Timmins Rock goalie Eric Jackson was at the top of his game the last time he and his teammates visited the Tim Horton Event Centre. On this play, the goalie was able to turn aside a shot from Crunch blue-liner Noah Bennett. Jackson made 42 saves to help backstop the Rock to a 2-1 double-overtime victory. The Rock will make their second visit of the 2017-18 NOJHL season to Cochrane Friday night for a contest scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS


By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)


COCHRANE – The Timmins Rock will make just their second visit of the 2017-18 NOJHL season to the Tim Horton Event Centre when they take on the Crunch Friday night.

And Rock fans can only hope the outcome will be similar to their first visit on Nov. 10, when the visitors rallied for a 2-1 double-overtime victory over their arch rivals.

On paper, this contest would appear to be a mismatch of biblical proportions.

The Crunch (25-14-2-1) hold down second place in the East Division standings — 16 points back of the NOJHL-leading Powassan Voodoos — while the Rock (15-22-2-2) are mired in fifth place — two points behind the Hearst Lumberjacks (17-19-2-0) and seven points ahead of the French River Rapids (11-27-5-0).

Furthermore, the Crunch have posted a home record of 15-5-2-0 — best in the NOJHL — while the Rock’s road record, a third-worst in the league 4-13-1-1, leaves much to be desired.

Both the Rock (5-4-0-1) and the Crunch (6-4-0-0) have been relatively hot in their past 10 games.

Offensively, the Crunch (162 goals in 42 games) have outscored the Rock (102 goals in 41 games) by a wide margin this season.

Defensively, the two teams have posted almost identical records, however, with the Rock surrendering 123 goals in 41 games, while the Crunch have been scored upon 124 times in 42 games.

Special teams can be a key factor at the Junior ‘A’ level and the Crunch have been assessed 610 minutes in penalties in 42 games this season, compared to the 597 the Rock have served in 41 games.

When it comes to the power play, the Crunch (30 goals, 16.9%) rank seventh in the NOJHL this season, while the Rock (28 goals, 12.2%), in 11th place, are only better than the woeful Espanola Express (16 goals, 9.8%).

The Rock have surrendered an alarming 11 shorthanded goals this season, while the Crunch power play has been victimized just five times.

On the other side of the puck, the Rock penalty kill (34 goals against, 84.3%) is actually tied for fourth-best in the NOJHL, while the Crunch (43 goals against, 82.4% is tied for seventh place.

The Crunch have an advantage, however, in shorthanded goals scored, with 13 to their credit compared to the five the Rock have managed in 2017-18.

While the Rock won the only game played between the two teams so far this season at the Tim Horton Event Centre, they split a pair of games at the McIntyre Arena — with Timmins winning 7-5 on Sept. 19 and Cochrane coming out on top 3-1 on Dec. 12.

Offensively, the Crunch have eight players — Kyle Herbster (41, 27-28-55, 28), Austin Stauffer (42, 27-22-49, 34), Nicolas Flanders (39, 10-26-36, 82), defenceman Connor Lovie (40, 7-23-30, 44), Alex Brisson (39, 13-12-25, 14), Austin Whelan (42, 10-13-23, 6), T.J. Delaney (42, 10-10-20, 28) and Caleb Dolman (42, 6-14-20, 20) — who have topped the 20-point plateau so far this season.

In addition, newcomers Levi Johnson (5, 3-2-5, 12) and Zach Hayes (6, 3-2-5, 11) have been quite productive since arriving in Cochrane.

Hayes, of course, will be unavailable Friday night, as he serves the first game of a three-game suspension he picked up after being assessed a checking-to-the-head major penalty in the final 10 minutes of Sunday’s 9-4 home-ice win over the Lumberjacks.

Suspension will also keep Rock rookie forward Riley Robitaille (25, 4-3-7, 28) out of the lineup, as he serves the second game of a five-game suspension he picked up during Jan. 14’s loss to the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour.

The Rock, on the other hand, have just five players — Jordan Picard (42, 8-20-28, 40), Wayne Mathieu (40, 9-17-26, 22), C.J. Bradburn (30, 11-10-21, 22), Tyler Gilberds (39, 9-11-20, 50) and Derek Seguin (28, 7-13-20, 47) — who have hit the 20-goal mark in 2017-18.

Both the Rock — Eric Jackson (1618:00, 10-13-2-1, 0, 2.71, .904 and Tyler Masternak (696:00, 5-5-0-1, 1, 2.59, .910) — and the Crunch — Shayne Battler (1188:00, 13-5-1-, 1, 2.68, .917) and Taylor Unruh (1312:00, 12-7-1-1, 0, 3.02, .902) — feature formidable one-two punches in goal.

Both Jackson and Unruh were at the top of their games when the Rock and the Crunch did battle at the Tim Horton Event Centre on Nov. 10.

Neither team was able to score during the opening 20 minutes of play, while rookie blue-liner Eli Hernandez gave the Crunch a 1-0 lead when he beat Jackson midway though the second period.

That lead held up until the 1:25 mark of the third period, as C.J. Bradburn scored to knot things up at 1-1.

That’s the way the score remained through the remainder of the third period and a four-on-four overtime period.

Then, at the 2:51 mark of the second, three-on-three overtime session, Stewart Parnell netted the game-winning goal for the visitors.

It marked the fifth-straight game in which Parnell had scored a goal for the Rock, but he has not played in a regular season game since because of an upper-body injury he suffered while with Team NOJHL at the Eastern Canada Junior ‘A’ All-Star Challenge.

Parnell has been skating and is getting close to returning to action.

Game time for Friday night’s contest at the Tim Horton Event Centre is 7:30 p.m.

The next home game for the Rock will be on Wednesday when they host the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena.