Hearst Lumberjacks goalie Liam Oxner prepares to smoother the puck before Timmins Rock Captain Derek Seguin can pounce on his rebound during the second period of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. While Seguin was foiled on this play, he did net a first-period shorthanded goal to help lead the Rock to a 2-1 victory. The two sides will meet again at the McIntyre Arena on Tuesday, at 8:30 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
Josh Dickson’s second-period power-play marker stood up to be the game winner, as the Timmins Rock edged the Hearst Lumberjacks 2-1 in the first game of their six-game NOJHL series at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.
Despite the victory, the Rock’s sixth in seven games to start the NOJHL regular season, coach Corey Beer was not thrilled with the effort he saw from his squad.
“It was a game where we didn’t work very hard for it,” he said.
“It was just a lackluster effort, a bit of a goalie show both ways. I thought both goalies (Tyler Masternak, for the Rock, and Liam Oxner, for the Lumberjacks) were really good, which was nice to see.
“Both goalies made some timely stops in tight.
“We were fortunate to come out with the 2-1 win, for sure.”
Dickson’s fifth goal of the season came off a set faceoff play to the left of Oxner one second after Hearst blue-liner Dylan Ford was sent off for interference.
Dickson also had an assist on Captain Derek Seguin’s shorthanded goal at the 13:23 mark of the opening period.
It was the team leading sixth tally of the campaign for Seguin, who found the back of the net from in close.
The Lumberjacks were able to get back on even terms before the end of the frame, however, thanks to Trystan Mughal’s power-play marker, his first goal of the season.
Rookie Rock forward Landon Deforge was in the penalty box at the time, serving a two-minute minor for high sticking he picked up deep in the Hearst zone.
“The first thing is the inability of our defencemen to clear pucks,” Beer said.
“We had a chance to clear the puck and we shot it right to their guy and it was a muffin shot. That comes back to fundamentals. We work on that kind of stuff all the time.
“It (the short) went right through our defenceman and Masty. I don’t think Masty even saw it, to be honest.
“Any time the puck doesn’t clear the D Zone on the PK (penalty kill), it comes back to haunt you.”
The game remained deadlocked until Dickson’s second-period shot found the back of the net with Beer screaming, “Timeout, timeout, timeout,” from the Rock bench.
Beer admitted after the contest he was happy neither referee, Brenden Bujold or Dan Ouellet, heard or granted his request for a timeout prior to the puck being dropped.
“It was very fortunate, obviously,” he said.
“It is funny what happens with veteran players on the ice. The way we attempted that play, was what we were wanting to do, regardless.
“The play was run to perfection.”
The Lumberjacks had a glorious opportunity to get back on even terms just past the midway point of the second period when Rock blue-liner Evan Beaudry was assessed a double minor (handling the puck and roughing after the whistle) and a game misconduct.
After killing off all but six seconds of the first of those two minor penalties, Rock penalty killer drove the puck into the Lumberjacks’ zone and forced Ford to take him down.
The resulting interference penalty negated most of the remaining Lumberjacks man advantage.
“I thought that was maybe a bit of a turning point for us,” Beer said.
“He made that extra effort to get out there and then get interfered with.
“I thought that was such a great play and indicative of how Cam has gotten his game to the next level, the quickness, the tenacity, the relentlessness is something that is infectious at times throughout our roster.
“Maybe not so much tonight, with some of the guys being a little bit lazy and stuff.
“Him and Smitty (Zach Smith) I thought were so good on that one line.”
With less than two minutes remaining on the clock, the Lumberjacks briefly pulled Oxner in favour of an extra attacker in hopes of tying up the contest, but he had to return to the net when teammate Jordan Mughal was sent off for goaltender interference with 1:08 remaining in the contest.
Special teams clearly had a big impact on the outcome of Sunday’s contest, with two of the game’s three goals being scored on the power play, while the other was a shorthanded effort.
“They have a very dangerous power play on the other side and we took some flat-out stupid penalties tonight, dumb ones in the offensive zone,” Beer said.
“I would have to go back and check, but I don’t think we took any defensive zone penalties. They were all in the offensive zone or the neutral zone.
“It is unacceptable, from that standpoint. Hopefully, it is a lesson learned for our guys.
“I didn’t particularly like our penalty kill to begin with today. Puck got right through us and it wasn’t a good goal against. Good goal for them.”
The coach had plenty of praise for Seguin and Dickson, the Rock’s Top 2 snipers.
“It is incredible how dangerous those two can be down a man, and still put guys on their heals,” Beer said.
“They are incredibly special players.”
The coach also singled out a couple of other Rock players for a little extra praise, as well.
“We got great contributions from Surks (Kosurko) and Smitty on that next line and I thought Riley Robitaille, again, was making all the smart plays out there,” Beer said.
“That kind of veteran leadership up front is really helping us. Those guys are monsters for us.”
The coaching staff also showed a great deal of confidence in a pair of rookie blue-liners, Bode Dunford and Felix Cadieux-Fredette, putting them out together in the game’s final five minutes, with the Rock nursing their one-goal advantage.
“They have made some great strides, like a lot of the guys here,” Beer said.
“They are earning themselves more ice time, but I would be lying if I didn’t say the defence pairings were in the blender tonight. Not a lot was working for those guys.
“So, while they may have appeared to be rookies in age and stature, they weren’t playing like it and some of the veteran guys weren’t having good nights.
“It was a credit to those young guys for stepping in and giving us some good minutes.”
After playing six-straight games against the Rayside-Balfour Canadians to start the season, Sunday night offered the Rock their first in-person look at a different opponent.
“They were very much the same as what we saw from them on the pre-scout,” Beer said.
“Very talented, very offensive and Beg (Lumberjacks coach Marc-Alain Begin) has obviously got them playing a different style of game than they have in the past.
“They have been pretty successful at it, too. They caused us problems all night, with the pressure and with their creativity.
“We have five more games against them and we want to make sure we stay on the right side of it. We will be able to draw some good video from today, hopefully, fix some of our mistakes, but they are as advertised — good goaltending, quick defence group and skilled forwards.”
Masternak turned aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced to pick up his NOJHL-leading fifth victory of the season.
Oxner, who stopped 27 of the 29 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Dickson, Seguin and Lumberjacks blue-liner Carson Cox (one assist) … The Rock went 1-5 on the power play and added a shorthanded goal, while the Lumberjacks were 1-6 with the man advantage … The Rock did not dress forward Tyler Patterson (healthy scratch) or blue-liner Christopher Innes (healthy scratch) … The Rock have traded the playing rights to forward/defenceman Phil Caron to the OJHL’s Trenton Hawks in exchange for a player development fee … Sunday’s only other contest saw the Cochrane Crunch blank the Gold Miners 5-0 in Kirkland Lake … The Rock will host the Lumberjacks in Game 2 of the series at the McIntyre Arena on Tuesday. Game time is set for 8:30 p.m.