SAULT STE. MARIE — Thunderbirds forward Lucas Theriault’s second goal of the game spoiled the Timmins Rock’s dream of ending an impressive three-game road trip with a come-from-behind victory Sunday afternoon at the John Rhodes Community Centre.
The Rock, who opened the trip with a 4-3 win over the Beavers in Blind River Friday night and doubled up the Eagles 4-2 in the Sault, Mich., Saturday night, fell behind 2-0 in the first period of Sunday afternoon’s contest en route to a 3-2 setback.
“We played a phenomenal third period, but maybe we were a little tired there,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“It wasn’t the best first period for us, although we had a couple of chances here and there in the first five minutes. Then, they got a couple of quick ones on us.
“The second period was a bit of a sorting out match both ways and then in the third period it was just tremendous hockey from our end. Our push back was great. We had different contributors throughout the lineup. Our back end was good on transition and our forwards were relentless on the forecheck.
“It certainly made for a great finish to the game. Unfotunately, we weren’t able to steal a point.”
Theriault got the Thunderbirds on the scoreboard when he beat Rock goalie Nicholas Dicks for his 12th goal of the season at the 7:19 mark of the opening period.
Soo blue-liner Kobe Seguin — no relation to Rock captain Derek Seguin — then made it a 2-0 hockey game when he potted a power-play maker, his first goal of the season three-and-a-half minutes later.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net during an evenly matched second period that saw the Rock outshoot the Thunderbirds 7-6.
Derek Seguin final got the visitors on the scoreboard 1:53 into the third period when he netted a power-play marker, his 15th goal of the season.
Then, just past the midway point of the period the Rock got back on even terms when Josh Dickson scored his sixth goal of the season, tying things up at 2-2.
It looked like the Rock — winners of nine of their previous 10 games — might be able to salvage at least a single point on the final stop of their road trip, but Theriault beat Dicks for his second goal of the night and 13th of the season with 4:18 remaining in regulation.
Naturally, Beer would have liked to have seen his team come away with at least a point, but he was still pleased with the effort — especially in the final 20 minutes of the contest.
“From our standpoint, this was probably our best period of hockey,” he said.
“As a staff, we are incredibly proud of the way our guys competed. Even though it was a loss, it was a team-building loss.”
Prior to the start of the three-game road trip, if he had been asked if he would be happy to return home with two wins and his team in first place in the NOJHL overall standings, Beer would have responded: “Hell, yes, 100%!”
“Standings aside, because it is still early in the season, we don’t put much stock in that to be playing the type of hockey we are and to have the guys playing for one another, is great.
“We have some good continuity on this roster, with guys who really play hard for one another and I think that sometimes trumps skill. When you have a team that wants to play that hard night-in and night-out, it’s inspiring.”
The goal he scored on Sunday gave Derek Seguin five goals and eight points for the three-game road trip, moving him up to third place in the NOJHL scoring race behind Cade Herd, of the Powassan Voodoos, and Brendan Young, of the Beavers. In addition, his team-leading 15 goals are tops n the NOJHL.
“He is on fire right now,” Beer said.
“He is a spark plug out there and he does everything. He had a play where he tried to bank it off the back of the goalie and the puck laid on the goal line with about two-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.
“He is our catalyst offensively and he is making his wingers (Keegan McMullen and Riley Robitaille) that much more lethal. Guys have to respect him in the offensive zone.”
Seguin was not the only Rock player to earn a little extra praise from his coach on Sunday.
“Eamon Bollinger played another phenomenal game,” Beer said.
“He is just hitting his stride here with the opportunities he is being given and the situations we are putting him in our there. It is really helping his game a lot.
“On the back end, without Josh Anderson (upper-body injury) Will Caston played some huge minutes and Eric Moreau had one of his best games. It was great to see his confidence and puck possession awareness out there.
“You can go down the lineup offensively. The Seguin line, with Robi and Mully, was great.
“Austin Holmes rang one off the crossbar with about a minute to go in the game.
“We got some great contributions all weekend long.”
The Rock lost forward Mahingan Decontie to a lower-body injury during Sunday’s contest.
“We are really hoping it is nothing too serious, but he was not able to finish the game,” Beer said.
Dicks got he start in goal Sunday after Tyler Masternak had played the first two games of the trip.
“He played all right,” Beer said.
“There are probably a couple of goals he would want to have back, but it is tough. The life of a back-up goalie is not easy. They are judged on wins more than anything.
“They have a job to do and it is not an easy one. They get in there every so often and they have to find a way to win those games.
“We found a way to tie this game and he needs to make that save in the third period to give us a chance to get to overtime and steal a point.
“It’s not a glamorous job. You don’t get the accolades and people look at you and go, ‘Yeah, you didn’t get the win.’ It is something he is going to have to battle back from.”
The three-game trek though the West Division was the Rock’s Fathers Weekend and Beer was quite happy with how things went.
“I think we had 12 or 13 of the dads who came on the trip,” he said.
“We had some of them come up from southern Ontario. It was a pretty cool thing we are going to try and do in years to come.
“It was a great little thing for the dads to be able to bond together while they cheer on their boys.”
Colin Ahern, who stopped 28 of the 30 shots the Rock directed his way, went the distance in net for the Thunderbirds to pick up his eighth win of the season.
Dicks, who turned aside 28 of the 31 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Theriault, Ahern and Kobe Seguin … Rock forward Tyler Hutchinson and Thunderbirds blue-liner Nate Medaglia were ejected from the contest following their second-period bout. They each received five-minute majors for fighting and game misconducts, with Hutchinson drawing an extra two minutes for instigating … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Thunderbirds were 1-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the John Rhodes Community Centre was 147 … Sunday’s other action saw the Cochrane Crunch battle back to edge the Rapids 5-4 in a shootout in French River, the Beavers get past the Hearst Lumberjacks 6-4 in Blind River and the Elliot Lake Wildcats edge the Express 2-1 in Espanola … The Rock will return to action on Saturday night when they host the Eagles at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Game Photos courtesy of Rod Aubertin – SSM Photos