The Timmins Rock — who have played the fewest games in the NOJHL — will be looking to close the gap on the two teams ahead of them in the East Division standings when they take to the ice for a pair of games on the weekend.
Saturday night, the Rock (22-5-1-1) will travel to Cochrane for a game against the fourth-place Crunch (14-16-1-2) at the Tim Horton Event Centre, at 7 p.m.
Then, on Sunday, the Rock will welcome the Hearst Lumberjacks (25-10-0-1) — who currently hold down top spot in the East Division standings the to the McIntyre Arena for a 2 p.m. start.
The Lumberjacks hold a one-point lead on second-place Powassan (25-6-0-0), but they have played five more games than the Voodoos and seven more than the Rock, who trail the division leaders by five points.
Saturday night’s contest will be the Rock’s first trip to Cochrane this season, with the lone meeting between the two teams resulting in a 4-0 Timmins win at the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 26.
The Crunch (9-5-0-1) have been solid on home ice this season, but the Rock (7-3-0-1) boast an even more impressive road record.
Offensively, the Rock — with 119 goals scored — rank sixth overall in the NOJHL in terms of team offence, despite playing the fewest number of games in the league.
Meanwhile, the Crunch — who have played four more games — sit in eighth place, with 93 goals on the campaign.
Two members of the Rock, forwards Josh Dickson (28, 16-16-32, 28) and Derek Seguin (28, 17-14-31, 14), are among the NOJHL’s Top 20 scorers to this point in the campaign, while only one member of the Crunch, forward Matthew Minichiello (33, 14-18-32, 40), has earned that designation.
Timmins boasts a solid supporting cast, as well, that has seen blue-liner Josh Anderson (28, 6-19-25, 34), Karter Renouf (29, 14-10-24, 26), Riley Robitaille (29, 6-15-21, 31), Tyler Gilberds (28, 10-8-18, 32), David Laroche (17, 8-10-1, 4), Stewart Parnell (23, 7-11-18, 11), Jonah Devereux (26, 6-10-16, 20) and Tyler Schwindt (28, 6-10-16, 14) all accumulate at least 15 points.
Four additional members of the Crunch — Stephen Minichiello (31, 13-13-26, 20), Owen Perala (33, 12-13-25, 26), Nicholas Grandy (32, 11-13-24, 36) and Hunter Buzzi (22, 9-9-18, 20) — have hit that mark.
Defensively, the Rock — backed by the one-two punch of veteran Tyler Masternak (962:00, 12-2-1-1, 4, 1.93, .924) and rookie Vance Meyer (780:00, 10-3-0-0, 4, 1.46, .932) — have allowed just 52 goals on the season, 26 fewer than the Voodoos.
With 111 goals against on the campaign, the Crunch have the eighth best defensive record in the NOJHL.
Zach Wickson (914:00, 6-8-0-2, 1, 3.41, .910) has seen the bulk of the action in the Cochrane net this season and he currently shares the crease with former Lumberjacks goalie Tomi Gagnon (293:00, 2-2-0-0, 0, 3.69, .887).
With a success rate of 20.6 per cent, the Rock rank fourth in the NOJHL on the power play, while the Crunch, at 15.2 per cent, have struggled with the man advantage.
At the other end of the special teams spectrum, the Rock are third in the league with a penalty kill success rate of 87.3 per cent, while the Crunch, at 79.2 per cent are 10th.
Sunday afternoon’s opponent, the Lumberjacks, have been a thorn in the side of the Rock for most of the season.
The Rock have suffered just five regulation losses in 2019-20, but four of them have come at the hands of the Lumberjacks — while Timmins has just one victory against their East Division opponents.
Most recently, the Lumberjacks swept back-to-back games against the Rock — winning 5-2 in Hearst and 3-2 back at the McIntyre Arena.
Offensively, the Lumberjacks rank fifth in the NOJHL in goals, with 129, and third in goals against, with 89.
Four Lumberjacks — Max Griffioen (35, 21-25-46, 6), Jake Desando (35, 14-26-40, 27), Olivier Cloutier-Faucher (35, 16-18-34, 6) and Dominic Dumas (36, 13-18-31, 12) — are among the NOJHL’s Top 20 snipers.
Three other Lumberjacks — David Gobeil (32, 8-19-27, 12), Alex Cannon (35, 16-8-24, 34) and Spencer Silver (16, 9-9-18, 13) — have surpassed the 15-point mark at this point in the campaign.
Liam Oxner (1,333:00, 16-7-0-0, 1, 2.39, .918) has seen the bulk of the action between the pipes for the Lumberjacks to this point in the season.
He shares the crease with newly acquired Noah Zeppa (60:00, 1-0-0-0, 1, 0.00, 1.000).
At 24.4 per cent, the Lumberjacks feature the second-best power play in the NOJHL, while they are fourth on the penalty kill chart with an efficiency rating of 84.9 per cent.
Fans attending Sunday afternoon’s contest are reminded, of course, to bring stuffed animals with them so they can participate in the Rock’s annual Teddy Bear Toss.
For those who forget, there will be a limited number of bears available for purchase at the game.
NOJHL NOTES — The Rock continue to lead the league in attendance, averaging 881 fans per game. At 732, the Lumberjacks have the second-best attendance. Meanwhile, the Crunch rank seven in attendance, with 277 fans per game filling the Tim Horton Event Centre … After this weekend’s pair of games, the Rock will close out the pre-Christmas portion of their 2019-20 schedule by playing a home-and-home series with the Gold Miners. The teams will meet in Kirkland Lake on Friday, Dec. 20, and then back at the McIntyre Arena on Saturday, Dec. 21 … Tickets remain on sale for the Timmins Rock fourth-annual Comedy Show — featuring Casey Corbin and Ron James — at École secondaire catholique Thériault on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m.