VIDEO / GALLERY: Rock rally to topple Lumberjacks, strengthen hold on top spot in East

Timmins Rock forward Brant Romaniuk makes a celebratory pass in front of his team’s bench after scoring the first of his two goals in Monday afternoon’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. Romaniuk’s 14th and 15th goals of the season helped the Rock defeat the Hearst Lumberjacks 5-4, strengthening their hold on top spot in the East Division standings. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

Brant Romaniuk scored a pair of goals to help the Timmins Rock rally past the Hearst Lumberjacks 5-4 in a key NOJHL East Division battle at the McIntyre Arena on Monday.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

With the victory, the East Division-leading Rock (34-14-2-0) increased their advantage over the Lumberjacks (27-14-3-2) to 11 points, although Hearst has four games in hand.

Lurking in third place, 12 points behind the Rock and one point back of the Lumberjacks, are the Powassan Voodoos (28-17-0-2), who edged the Cubs 3-2 in Greater Sudbury on Monday.

Despite once again missing five regulars — blue-liners Kyle Trottier, Ayden Trottier and Chase Longhurst-McIntyre, as well as forwards Liam Wells and Kaeden McArthur — from the lineup, the Rock played a spirited contest, although coach and general manager Brandon Perry still wasn’t pleased with some aspects of their game.

“I didn’t like the way we played in the second period, but overall it was a good game,” he said.

“I thought we had a great first period, but we gave up a goal at the end, same as we did Saturday night (during a 5-1 loss to the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie). These things have got to stop happening, but it is hard not to let that mistake distract you from how well we played in the first period.”

Captain Felix Cadieux-Fredette’s power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season, gave the Rock a 1-0 lead just past the midway point in the first period.

But Mathieu Comeau’s 14th goal of the season got the Lumberjacks back on even terms with 6.40 seconds remaining on the clock.

The Rock regained the lead two minutes into the middle frame when Romaniuk scored the first of his two goals on the afternoon and 14th of the season.

Blue-liner Julien Trudel’s blast from the point got past Rock goalie Patrick Boivin for his third goal of the season five minutes later to once again tie things up, at 2-2.

And former Rock forward Tyler Patterson gave the Lumberjacks their only lead in the contest with just over three minutes remaining in the frame when he scored his 33rd goal of the season.

“We turned over way too many pucks late in that period and we were taking way too many long shifts,” Perry said.

“We weren’t paying attention to details and obviously we dug ourselves a hole.”

Romaniuk’s second goal of the game and 15th of the season, an unassisted marker, got the Rock back on even terms just under three minutes into the third period.

Just over a minute later, Nolan Ring tied things up at 3-3 for the Rock when he netted his 14th goal of the season.

And Harry Clark provided the Rock with a little insurance just past the midway point in the frame when he scored a power-play marker, his team-leading 32nd goal of the season.

As it turned out, however, Clark’s tally would prove to be the game-winner, as Lumberjacks blue-liner Adam Shillinglaw scored a power-play marker, his ninth goal of the season, with Hearst goalie Russ Decoste on the bench in favour of an extra attacker with 2:31 remaining in regulation.

“Off a face-off win, Freddie (Cadieux-Fredette) passed the puck over to me, I seam-passed it over and it went down to Lowesy (Lucas Lowe) and he put it back door to me,” Clark said.

The Lumberjacks again pulled Decoste in favour of an extra attacker in the game’s dying minutes, but they were unable to secure the equalizer.

“I liked out third period, I really did,” Perry said.

“We were down a goal coming into the third period, but we had a good response. Our guys are tired and beat up but some of the stuff we were doing out there (in the second period) was inexcusable.”

The Rock were playing their third game in three-and-a-half days, with close to 900 kilometres of travel thrown in for good measure.

Prior to Monday afternoon’s victory, the Rock had struggled against the Lumberjacks this season, with a record of 4-5-0-0, but the coach knew his squad was capable of beating their rivals.

“We are a good hockey team,” Perry said.

“They have a good hockey team over there, as well, and there is a reason we have had some ups and downs against them, so I am super happy with this result for us this afternoon.”

The coach was once again impressed with what he saw from Romaniuk, the Rock’s 16-year-old sniper.

“We put him up there with Clarkie and Mason (Svarich) this afternoon just to kind of bring that and dropped Ringer down to help out some other guys and it worked out for both of them,” Perry said.

“Ringer scored a big goal and Brant got two nice ones. Brant is a skilled player and he is going to score goals when he puts himself in good spots. He is still young and he is still learning, but what a season he is having. It is a testament to how hard he works.”

There was no shortage of other Rock players who impressed their coach, as well.

“I thought all our depth played well tonight,” Perry said.

“I thought we got great contributions from the back end, especially Sam Gallagher, who was back in the lineup. He adds a different dynamic to our group, so it was super nice to have him back on both sides of the puck.

“I thought (Jack) Anderson was great on the penalty kill at the end. Didn’t like that goal he got scored on where the Hearst D beat him to the rebound, but he had a great response.

“There was a lot of good things, a lot of good response today.”

The coach admitted Monday afternoon’s victory meant a little bit more given it was a game dedicated to the memory of Ryan Seguin, the brother of former Rock captain Derek Seguin.

“Yes, it was super special,” Perry said.

“It is something that is close to hearts of us here in this locker room. Derek Seguin did a lot for this program and his brother was a great man.”

Clark described Monday afternoon’s victory as a big character win for the Rock.

“All four forward lines played a hell of a game and all six D were awesome and Boivs had a good game,” he said.

“This game pretty much decided first place. We were like a point ahead of them going in, if you count all the games they had in hand (assuming the Lumberjacks were to have won them all). So, it was do or die for us basically.”

According to Clark, one of the keys to victory for the Rock Monday afternoon was getting back to basics.

“We simplified our game,” he said.

“We played as a team, we rolled four lines and we got it done as a team, passing the puck, chipping it in, hitting, all that stuff that adds up in the end.”

The veteran forward was impressed with what he saw from Romaniuk on his line Monday afternoon.

“He is a heck of a young player, with so much skill and he is always in the right spot,” Clark said.

“He has a great shot, so it was awesome to have him out there with us.”

Romaniuk previously filled in on the line with Clark and Svarich when Ring was out with an injury earlier in the season, so it was a seamless transition.

Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin noted his squad, like the Rock, was without a number of key players Monday afternoon.

“I think it was an evenly matched game, but we made a couple of mistakes in the third period that cost us the game,” he said.

“I think we were the better team for most of the game, but the outcome was not what we wanted. We have to regroup.”

Begin acknowledged it was a costly loss for the Lumberjacks in terms of their quest to finish in first place in the East Division standings.

“We knew we had to get this win to even have a chance for first place,” he said.

“We knew they were coming off a tough road trip, but we expected them to come out hard and fast in front of their fans, especially when the building was pretty packed.

“I think we managed the game well for about 48 minutes and then there were three minutes in the third period that cost us three goals.

“Then, after they made it 5-3 we had a couple of good chances, made it 5-4, but their goalie made some big saves at the end.”

The Lumberjacks coach liked what he saw from his line of Patterson, Comeau and Damien Bourdon-Lemoyne Monday afternoon.

“It has been a couple of games now with (DonHeaven) Veilleux and (Liam) Boswell out and we have been relying on Comeau and Patterson to get us going,” Begin said.

“I thought they were hungry all afternoon. Every time they were on the ice, they were making things happen. They could have easily gotten three or four more goals, but that’s hockey.”

On the back end, Shillinglaw and Trudel were solid contributors on both sides of the puck.

“They both scored nice goals,” Begin said.

“For Trudel, it was his second goal here (at the McIntyre Arena), so we know he likes the big moments. Shillinglaw has been a force for us all year, offensively and defensively.”

Boivin, who stopped 25 of the 29 shots he faced, earned his 17th win of the season for the Rock.

Decoste, who turned aside 14 of the 19 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Romaniuk, Patterson and Ring … The Rock went 2-2 on the power play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,437 … Monday’s other action saw Powassan Voodoos edge the Cubs 3-2 in a shootout in Greater Sudbury and the Beavers top the Soo Eagles 6-4 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Friday when they host the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel