UPDATE / GALLERY: Rock hold off Storm to lock up top spot in East Division

Timmins Rock forward Kaeden McArthur attempts to cut around Storm forward Ben Sherwin after crossing the Iroquois Falls blue-line during Saturday night’s NOJHL game at the Jus Jordan Arena. McArthur scored his 21st goal of the season in the contest to help the Rock knock off the Storm 8-6 and sweep their home-and-home series and their 10-game regular-season series. TURNBULL’S NORTHERN PHOTOGRAPHY/FOR NOJHL NETWORK jpg, TD, apsmc

Photos: Turnbull’s Northern Photography

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

IROQUOIS FALLS, Ont. – The Timmins Rock held on for an 8-6 win over the Storm at the Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night, clinching their third-straight NOJHL East Division title in the process.

It was the seventh-straight win for the Rock, who took the first half of their home-and-home series with the Storm, posting an 8-2 win at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

While Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was happy to see his squad sweep the two games against the Storm and lock up top spot in the East Division standings, he was none too thrilled with the way Saturday night’s contest ended.

“It wasn’t our best five minutes of play, couple of bad bounces and a couple of mistakes, obviously, just cheating for offence, some selfish stuff, but we will correct it and be better next game,” he said.

“It’s mixed feelings right now. On the one hand, I am proud of our group. That’s three-straight East Division titles for our organization. So, I am super proud of that, obviously, but I am just not happy with how we ended this game.”

For the first 54-and-a-half minutes of Saturday night’s contest, it looked like the Rock would once again earn a one-sided victory but the Storm came alive to make things interesting late in the third period.

Max Jugnauth’s power-play marker, his 13th goal of the season, kick started the Storm’s rally with 5:34 remaining in regulation.

Two minutes later, Andrew Scott added his fourth goal of the season to close the gap even further.

Lucas Peever followed with his second goal of the game and 16th of the season with 1:41 remaining on the clock.

And Whittaker Heart netted his first goal of the season with just 14 seconds remaining in the contest.

That would be as close as the Storm would come to getting back on even terms, however, leaving the final 8-6 in favour of the Rock.

It didn’t take the Rock long to open the scoring in Saturday night’s contest, as Jack Kelly scored the first of his two goals in the game and seventh of the season, a power-play marker, at the 1:46 mark of the opening period.

Mason Svarich, who had four goal in Friday night’s game, then added his first of two tallies on the night and 38th of the season.

Liam Wells followed with a power-play marker, his 29th goal of the campaign, to make it a 3-0 hockey game.

Peever got the Storm on the scoreboard with 1:49 remaining in the frame when he scored his first of two goals on the night and 15th of the season.

But the Rock got that one back 45 seconds later, as Kelly netted his second goal of the game and eighth of the campaign.

The Rock kept coming when the puck dropped to start the second period and Thomas Beard scored his 16th goal of the season 12 seconds into the frame.

Landon Trethewey’s power-play marker, his fifth goal of the season, just past the midway point in the period pulled the Storm a little closer, but the Rock added two more goals before the buzzer sounded to end the frame.

Kaeden McArthur scored his 21st goal of the season and Svarich followed with a power-play marker, his second goal of the night and 39th of the season to put the Rock in front 7-2 heading into the second intermission.

Lucas Lowe then netted his 17th goal of the season for the Rock 1:27 into the third period, setting the stage for the Storm’s late rally.

The last five four-and-a-half minutes of Saturday night’s game aside, Perry liked a lot of what he saw from his Rock squad on the weekend.

“We played a great 55 minutes of hockey but I still think there are some glaring issues on our penalty kill that we need to address before playoff time,” he said.

“Individually, obviously Mason with his four goals Friday night stood out and I thought Jack Kelly was one of our best players on the ice tonight.

“Kaeden McArthur and Liam wells, their line was phenomenal, that’s about it.”

The Rock swept all 10 of their games against the Storm this season, but Perry doesn’t see any advantage or disadvantage to facing Iroquois Falls in back-to-back games so close to the start of the playoffs.

“I wouldn’t put any emphasis on that,” he said.

“The playoffs are a different beast. They will be ready and so will we.”

Rock goalie Dryden Riley stopped 29 of the 35 shots he faced to earn his 20th win of the season.

Brodie Haylock, who turned aside 35 of the 43 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss for the Storm.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game Saturday night were Lowe, Storm forward Ben Sherwin (two assists) and Kelly … Both the Rock and Storm went 3-6 on the power play Saturday night … Official attendance at Jus Jordan Arena Saturday night was 622 … Saturday’s other action saw the Hearst Lumberjacks blank the Elliot Lake Vikings 7-0 in Massey, the Powassan Voodoos triple the Rapids 9-3 in French River, the Thunderbirds thump the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 10-2 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and the Eagles get past the Blind River Beavers 3-0 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., … The Rock will return to action Friday when they host the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.