GALLERY: Seguin ignites Rock attack

Timmins Rock captain Derek Seguin deposits his NOJHL-leading 23rd goal of the season into the Crunch net behind Cochrane goalie Michael Nickolau during the second period of Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Seguin, who was playing his final game in a Rock uniform, picked up two points on the night to earn a share of the NOJHL scoring title. The Rock went on to blank the Crunch 3-0. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Captain Derek Seguin scored one goal and set up another in his final game in a Timmins Rock uniform to help lead his squad to a 3-0 victory over the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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Those two points helped Seguin earn a share of the NOJHL scoring title with Blind River Beavers sniper Jacob Kelly.

And Rock goalie Tyler Masternak added to his NOJHL career-best shutout total, with his 18th whitewash.

Tuesday’s contest was the final in their 10-game set with the Crunch and the Rock finished with a record of 9-1-0.

Overall, the Rock (18-4-0) finished with the best record in the NOJHL, while the Crunch (4-15-2) were third in the East Division.

Even though the Rock outshot the Crunch 14-2 in the first period Tuesday night they didn’t get on the scoreboard until late in the frame when Evan Beaudry’s shot from the blue-line eluded Crunch goalie Michael Nickolau and found the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season.

The Rock added a pair of second-period markers just under two minutes apart to increase their advantage to 3-0 after 40 minutes.

Seguin, who earned an assist on Beaudry’s goal, notched his NOJHL-leading 23rd tally of the campaign at the 7:29 mark.

Zach Smith then chipped in with his eighth goal of the season to put the home side up by three goals heading into the final 20 minutes of the 2020-21 regular season.

While the third period was scoreless, it did not lack for drama as Seguin had two glorious opportunities to add to his goal total and break the deadlock with Kelly for the scoring title.

Nickolau came up with a pair of unbelievable saves, however, that left the Rock captain shaking his head.

“I thought that first one went in, but the bounces weren’t going my way,” Seguin said.

“Everything happens for a reason, so I guess me and Jacob can share that title.”

After generating just two shots in each of the first two periods, the Crunch got six shots on Masternak in the third period in an unsuccessful attempt to spoil his shutout bid.

The goalie was quick to give credit to his teammates for helping him add to his NOJHL career best shutout record.

“They knew how much this game meant to me and they showed it on the ice,” Masternak said.

“They worked their butts off for me all night and I can’t thank them enough.”

The Oshawa native was not sure if he has registered a shutout with fewer shots.

“I will take them however they come,” he said.

Josh Dickson, one of the five graduating Rock players, picked up an assist on Seguin’s goal.

“That was a text-book Timmins Rock win,” he said.

“Get a lead a lead early and lock it down from there. I don’t think they got more than 10 shots, so that’s a text-book game.”

Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson acknowledged his squad was focused on two things in the third period: Trying to get Seguin the extra point he needed to take sole possession of the scoring race and preserving yet another shutout for Masternak.

“We were taking care of our defensive zone, but we were definitely looking to get another goal or two out there, especially for Segs,” he said.

“Nickolau made a couple of huge saves on Segs, though, and I guess it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.

“Then, he was out there in the last minute blocking a shot, but that is just who he is, as a person, as a player.

“He will sacrifice and do all the little things. He has been a phenomenal captain and it is going to be really sad to see him go.

“Every time Masty is out there, he is a game changer. He has done a lot for this program. We know we can have a bad period here or there and come out of it zip-zip, maybe even up a goal.

“He has just changed this program, goaltender wise. To see him fold that net, put it down the way he does after a shutout is kind of his trademark.

“To have him be able to do that tonight in his last Junior ‘A’ game just seemed very fitting.”

There were no bad periods from the Rock perspective, however, Tuesday night.

“We emphasized right from the start that we weren’t looking to score 10 goals tonight, we were really going to play a complete hockey game, a 200-foot game,” Bisson said.

“I have to give credit to all our players because everybody bought it and we got pucks in deep. We did all the little things and we really didn’t give up much.

“It wasn’t Masty’s toughest shutout, but emotionally it might have been tough.”

With the exception of not being able to get their captain one more point, there were few things that could have gone better for the Rock Tuesday night.

“We are very proud of these guys, all 23 guys on the roster,” Bisson said.

“When (former Rock coach) Corey (Beer) left and wasn’t going to be part of these 10 games, we can’t thank the players enough for their professionalism and making it enjoyable for (assistant coach James Daschuk) Dazz and I and (assistant coach) Sean (Lee) and (head athletic trainer) Lacey (Rigg) to play seven road games.

“All those guys really worked hard and we pulled together as a team.”

Given the string of successes the Rock have enjoyed during the past two seasons, the only down side is that last year’s playoffs were cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are not playoffs at all following the completion of the 2020-21 campaign.

“It is so devastating because we were built to win last year,” Bisson said.

“We talked about that today. Last year, Josh Anderson did even realize it was his last Junior ‘A’ game (a 5-2 win over the Hearst Lumberjacks in the Rock’s only game of the 2020 playoffs).

“We thought we would continue on an play them a couple of nights later, but all of a sudden it came to an end.

“This year was a totally different situation again. We talked about it before the game. We knew it was going to be their last game.

“Most 20 year olds don’t know when their Junior ‘A’ career is going to end. It kind of ends abruptly, often with a loss. Some guys go out on top, but for the most part a lot of Junior ‘A’ careers end in a loss and a lot of tears.”

While the Crunch were denied a second victory Tuesday night, coach, general manager and owner Tom Nickolau was a lot happier with what he saw from his squad.

“We changed the system a little bit and didn’t chase a lot in our zone,” he said.

“We soaked up a lot of shots and Michael was fantastic in net today. It was unfortunate we were playing such a strong team.

“We worked hard today and we had some chances on Masternak, but we decided to dial it down and play good defensive hockey after what happened in the game before (a 10-1 loss).

“We didn’t want to get embarrassed in their building here and I am proud of all the guys. Every single player worked hard.”

The coach noted he will have to check out the HockeyTV broadcast to see exactly how his goalie came up with the two big third-period stops on Seguin.

“Michael has been working hard on his body with yoga,” Tom Nickolau said.

“He has done it many times in other years and he is getting better, but those saves were just incredible. I saw Seguin after the play shake his head and I had never seen him do that all year.

“You have to hand it to that team. I feel bad for them because they don’t get to have playoffs.

“They were good sports and it was a good series.”

While the Crunch only won one of the 10 games in the series, the experience their young players gain will likely benefit the squad for years to come.

“This is experience you rarely get,” Tom Nickolau said.

“For the most part, we stayed close. There were a couple of blowouts, but the rest of the games were one- or two-goal games going into the third period.

“I am proud of the guys. Winning one game was great. We could have had another one but we worked hard.”

Masternak, who stopped all 10 shots he faced, earned his NOJHL-best 13th win and second shutout of the COVID-19-shortened season.

Michael Nickolau, who turned aside 35 of the 38 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Seguin, Masternak and Robitaille (two assists) … Both the Rock and the Crunch went 0-3 on the power play … Rock forward Tyler Schwindt was ejected from the game in the second period after picking up a five-minute major for body checking and a game misconduct … Rock general manager Kevin Peever announced after the game he is leaving the organization.