VIDEO / GALLERY: Top line ignites Rock offence

Timmins Rock captain Tyler Schwindt gets off a shot on Cochrane Crunch goalie Michael Nickolau as linemate Nicolas Pigeon looks on during Tuesday night’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. Nickolau got his left pad on the shot to deflect it wide, but Schwindt scored three goals in the game to lead the Rock to a 9-3 victory. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The line of captain Tyler Schwindt, Nicolas Pigeon and Harry Clark combined for 12 points as the Timmins Rock rolled over the Cochrane Crunch 9-3 at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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The Daily Press – GALLERY: Rock end winless skid

It was the first win in five games for the Rock (26-7-3-1) who pulled within a point of the second-place Powassan Voodoos (26-10-4-1) in the NOJHL’s East Division standings.

Meanwhile, the Crunch (2-33-1-2) have now gone 27 games without tasting victory.

Regardless of the opponent, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was a lot happier with the effort he saw from his squad Tuesday night than in the previous four contests.

“We did a lot of things well tonight,” he said.

“It was nice to get back in the win column.”

Schwindt got the Rock on the scoreboard first Tuesday night as he netted the first of three goals in the contest and 24th of the season at the 5:17 mark of the opening period.

Blue-liner Bode Dunford added a power-play marker, his seventh goal of the campaign, four minutes later to increase the Rock lead to 2-0.

Clark followed with his first of two tallies in the contest and second goal of the season on a bang-bang play.

That goal didn’t become official, however, until referees Dan Ouellet and Cory Hofferd, along with linesmen Jean Belliveau and Stewart McLeod conferred at centre ice to determine the puck had actually entered the net.

Pigeon then added his 11th goal of the season 10 seconds later.

That prompted Crunch coach Tom Nickolau to call a timeout and settle his troops down.

The Rock were able to add to their lead before the end of the period, however, as Schwindt netted his second goal of the game and 25th of the season to send the home side to the dressing room for the first intermission with a 5-0 lead.

The Crunch finally got on the scoreboard 5:44 into the middle frame, with Liam Boswell netting his 15th goal of the season.

It took less than three minutes for the Rock to get that one back, however, as Justin Charette replied with his eighth goal of the campaign to make it a 6-1 hockey game.

Schwindt then completed his hat-trick by netting his 26th goal of the season.

The high-scoring contest then saw the Crunch strike for a pair of goals in the final two-and-a-half minutes of the period.

Collin Lapointe potted a power-play marker, his fourth goal of the season, and Ryan Matthews followed with his third goal of the campaign.

The Rock added a pair of third-period goals to close out the scoring and make the final 9-3.

Converted blue-liner Chase Longhurst scored his second goal of the season and Clark added his second tally of the night and third of the campaign.

From the game’s first goal, the Rock didn’t show the emotion they normally would have after each tally, with the celebrations understated, to say the least.

“The way things have been going, I think the guys were feeling the weight of that four-game skid,” Perry said.

“Everybody was kind of feeling the pressure, especially our leadership group.

“They guys want to win so bad and they put a lot of pressure on themselves. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, as a staff and an organization.

“Sometimes when things aren’t going your way, you can make the problems bigger than they are.

“Every team goes through it, bumps in the road, and hopefully this was ours.”

Like everybody in the building not wearing Crunch blue, the Rock coach was impressed with what he saw from the combination of Schwindt, Pigeon and Clark Tuesday night.

“There is a ton of talent there,” Perry said.

“They are some really good hockey players and it was a good night for them.

“Consistently, all year, they have been producing for our hockey club, Schwinny and Pige, with Clarkie coming in now.”

Since returning to the Rock lineup, Clark (3, 3-2-5, 2) has been averaging a goal and nearly two points per game.

That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however, as his 2020-21 rookie campaign (22, 9-11-20, 6) was almost as impressive.

Much of that time was spent on a line with Schwindt and Pigeon, as well.

The chemistry that helped Clark pick up six points (two goals, four assists) during a March 28, 2021, contest against the Crunch clearly is as strong as ever.

“It is awesome playing with those two guys,” he said.

“Last year, finishing the season with them means we started with a bit of chemistry.”

There was no big secret to what was working well for the line Tuesday night.

“It was just quick passes and a lot of it was on the rush, so the key was getting in the middle, up to the blue-line and dishing it out, making the plays from there,” Clark said.

Being away from the rink for almost a full calendar year hasn’t had a great deal of impact on Clark’s game.

“I kind of found my groove in the third period of my first game,” he said.

“I had been kind of feeling out of shape but after a few practices I am feeling good.”

“(When the puck is going in like it was tonight), it gets the boys pumped up.”

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

“Everyone, really, I thought it was a complete team effort, other than the second period, and not even the second period, there was a long stretch of dominance in that second period,” Perry said.

“I just thought there were some mistakes in our own end, especially on the penalty kill.

“Obviously, we would want those ones back, but up and down the lineup I thought everyone was good.

“Chase Longhurst did an excellent job, coming in and playing forward. He ended up getting one (goal), getting rewarded.

“Henry Brock had a solid effort all night and it was nice to see Justin Charette get one (goal).

“Our D corps, all six guys back there were really solid and (Rock goalie) Konrad (Simard) did a good job, getting us another win.”

Blue-liner Carson Cox (three assists) left the contest a little early, but he is not expected to miss any significant time.

“He seems to be fine,” Perry said.

“He just cut his forehead.”

Simard stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced to earn his eight win of the season.

Crunch netminder Michael Nickolau, who blocked 41 of the 50 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three starts of the game were Pigeon (one goal, four assists), Schwindt (three goals) and Clark (two goals, two assists) … The Rock went 1-2 on the power play, while the Crunch were 1-3 with the man advantage … Tuesday’s only other scheduled contest, between the Greater Sudbury Cubs and the Soo Eagles, was postponed … The Rock will return to action on Thursday when the travel to Greater Sudbury for a game against the Cubs. The next home game will be on Friday, March 11, when the Rock will entertain the Espanola Express at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.