By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Tristan Salesse scored twice to lead the Timmins Rock to a 6-1 victory over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Saturday night.
The victory — in front of 1,046 fans — gave the Rock a split of their NOJHL regular-season opening home-and-home series after the Gold Miners earned a 4-2 win at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex Friday night.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was glad to get the franchise’s first victory out of the way early in the season.
“It was nice because of all the hype about our first game at home as the Timmins Rock,” he said.
“For a lot of our players, it was their first Junior ‘A’ game at home and in front of more than 1,000 people.
“It was a special night, especially for young (Wayne) Mathieu who scored his first goal as a junior hockey player. There were a lot of firsts tonight and first and foremost again, we played some great hockey.”
Prior to the start of the game the official opening ceremonies saw the Timmins Police Pipes and Drums band perform a number of songs, including We Will Rock You, with Timmins Rock flag bearers Michael Mulligan and Kenyon Shisheesh standing guard as the Rock starting players were introduced and the participants for the ceremonial puck drop marched out on the red carpet.
Four pucks were dropped by Timmins Mayor Steven Black, Goldcorp representative Chantal Brunet, NOJHL Commissioner Robert Mazzuca and Timmins Rock president Scott Marshall, with Rock captain Kealey Cummings and Gold Miners co-captain Jamey Lauzon taking the draw.
From Gagne’s perspective, the final score did not necessarily represent the tone of the hockey game.
“This was a close game,” he said.
“We got a couple of good shots. This was a pretty good hockey club we were playing against. You have to give them credit.”
After Rock goalie Logan Ferrington and Gold Miners puck stopper Marc Audet put up zeros in the first period, Kirkland Lake drew first blood again Saturday night.
Brayden Stortz beat Ferrington at the 6:22 mark of the second period to put the visitors in front 1-0.
The lead lasted just a minute-and-third-two seconds, however, as Jordan Rendle’s unassisted marker, his second goal of the season, got the Rock back on even terms 1-1.
Salesse then netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal with 4:45 remaining in the middle frame to put the home side in front 2-1 heading into the third period.
Even though the Rock held a one-goal lead heading into the final period, Gagne was not pleased with how his team played in the middle frame.
“I wasn’t happy with the turnovers we made in the neutral zone,” he said.
“The kids knew, too. We talked about it and in the third period we started playing five-minute segments. We won the first, we won the second and then the goals kept pouring in. We started to minimize the turnovers and we started to shoot the puck and look what happened.”
The Rock added to their lead at the 2:21 mark of the third period, as Wayne Mathieu ripped a shot under the arm of Audet and into the top right corner of the net.
Mike Norris extended the Rock lead to 4-1 less than four minutes later on a similar play, as the too beat Audet to the top right corner of the net with a hard wrist shot.
With four minutes to play in the game and Bain Cunningham, of the Rock, in the penalty box for cross checking, Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur opted to pull Audet in favour of an extra attacker to create a two-man advantage.
Kirkland Lake was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, however, and after the Cunningham penalty expired and with Audet still on the bench the Rock pulled in front 5-1 on a Devin Panzeca empty-net goal.
With Audet back in the Gold Miners net, the Rock added insult to injury when Salesse netted his second goal of the game with 23 seconds remaining on the clock.
Gagne was please with the play of Ferrington, who came up with a number of big stops when the outcome of the game was still in doubt.
“Mr., and I use the term Mr., Ferrington was outstanding tonight,” he said.
“He kept us in there when he was forced to make some big saves.
Ferrington turned aside 32 of the 33 shots the Gold Miners fired his way to record the win, while Audet made 39 saves and was tagged with the loss.
Salesse feels the large crowd was a definite advantage for the home side Saturday night.
“It was nice to come into our own barn and see all the fans,” he said.
“They acted like a sixth guy out there. The boys came out a lot harder tonight and we had a lot more intensity. Yesterday’s game, we just didn’t get the bounces. Tonight things were going good. We were finding our roles more.”
The two goals Salesse scored were a little more special given that his grandparents (Sonny and Michelle Borsa) from Terrace Bay were in town to watch the game.
“It was nice,” he said.
“They live pretty far away, so whenever they come down it is nice to do my best in front of them.”
Salesse feels a big factor in the Rock victory was that they took the game to the Gold Miners Saturday night.
“We came out hitting a lot more than last night at the start of the game and that really set the tone for the game,” he said.
“Having Logan Ferrington playing behind us helped, as well. He made some unbelievable saves.”
Despite suffering a five-goal loss, Lafleur was able to find a few positives in the defeat.
“If anything good came out of our game, I thought during the first two periods we forechecked very well,” he said.
“The intensity and the loose-puck battles, however, were the same as last night and I wasn’t pleased.
“The only difference was they got a few more goals in the third, but all in all we got outworked this weekend.”
That is not the only thing that has Lafleur concerned.
“There are a lot of other issues at hand, such as discipline,” he said.
“There aren’t many guarantees other than death and taxes but one of them will be that this team will be more disciplined very soon. It won’t last long, put it that way.
“You can’t build any momentum (when you take a lot of penalties). Some of your best players are on the bench.”
NOJHL NOTES — Both the Rock and the Gold Miners went 0-7 on the power play … The Rock were again without defenceman Justin Mendoza (paper work), defenceman Tyler Somers (recovering from off-season surgery) and forward Kyle Levis (serving the second game of a four-game suspension) … The Gold Miners were without forward Logan Fredericks (serving a one-game suspension he picked up in Friday night’s game) … The Rock will travel to Iroquois Falls to take on the Eskimos at the Jus Jordan Arena Wednesday night. They will then embark on a three-game road trip with stops in Sault Ste. Marie Friday night, Soo, Michigan, Saturday night and Espanola Sunday.