GALLERY: Turner’s late goal helps Voodoos eliminate defending champs

Powassan Voodoos, from left, Caden Dubreuil, Zach Turner and Caleb Dawson celebrate their NOJHL East Division final clinching 4-3 win over the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night. Turner’s fourth goal of the playoffs, with 26.0 seconds remaining in regulation, secured the victory that gave the best-of-seven series 4-3. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

Zach Turner’s goal with 26.0 seconds remaining in regulation lifted the Powassan Voodoos to a 4-3 win over the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

The win earned the Voodoos a date with the West Division champion Greater Sudbury Cubs in the NOJHL final, while it ended the campaign for the defending NOJHL champion Rock.

It marked the fourth time in the series the Voodoos had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to hand the Rock a defeat on their home ice. In fact, the visiting team won every game in the best-of-seven series.

“Losing is losing, I mean it sucks, because we definitely had chances to win this series,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“They were just better than us tonight. There is no easy way to put it. They just had more jump and we just weren’t mentally engaged.”

The defeat hit especially hard for eight Rock players — forwards Harry Clark, Mason Sverich, Liam Wells and Nolan Ring, as well as blue-liners Felix Cadieux-Fredette, Chase Longhurst-McIntyre and Kyle Trottier, as well as goalie Patrick Boivin — as it marked the final game of their Junior ‘A’ careers.

All but Trottier, who has been out with an upper-body injury, lingered on the ice long after the majority of the 1,766 fans in attendance had left the building, each having difficulty coming to grips with what had transpired.

Cadieux-Fredette, the Rock captain, like many of his teammates, was fighting back tears as the outcome of Tuesday night’s setback began to set in.

“Nothing can frustrate me more than the way we lost this hockey game,” he said.

“We play hockey to win. Sometimes you get the bounces, sometimes you don’t. It’s just hockey. (Tonight), we didn’t.”

Despite Tuesday night’s setback, Cadieux-Fredette noted he couldn’t be prouder of his teammates and what they accomplished this season.

“We battled our hearts out, every game,” he said.

“I love all these boys. We did our best.”

The captain noted the team really appreciated the support it received from the fans Tuesday night.

“The fans have always been great, really supporting us,” Cadieux-Fredette said.

“I love this city. I love these fans. I couldn’t have asked for a better Junior ‘A’ career.”

After falling behind earlier in the period, Rock forward Brant Romaniuk had tied things up at 3-3 with just 2:49 remaining on the clock, when he took a drop pass from linemate Harry Clark and buried his eighth goal of the playoffs over the shoulder of Voodoos goalie Daniel Dirracolo.

Given that the Voodoos had won Game 1 and Game 2 of the series at the McIntyre Arena in overtime and Game 5 in double overtime, at that point fans had been expecting at least one extra frame Tuesday night, as well.

Turner had other ideas, however, and the Voodoos broke the hearts of Rock fans for a fourth time in the series.

“Nobody in the McIntyre Arena was happier to see Turner net the winner than Dirracolo who has played more minutes than any other NOJHL goalie during the playoffs.

“The boys really played hard and I have believed in this group since Day 1,” he said.

“All 19 guys, forward and D, had my back so I just had to go out there and make a save for them and have their backs, too.”

Even though Dirracolo has played 760 minutes through the first two rounds of the playoffs, he still has plenty of gas in the tank.

“Once I get going, I just feel good and keep working from there,” he said, noting he will be ready to go with the puck drops on the finals Thursday.

It will be hard for Dirracolo to duplicate the success he and his Voodoos teammates had at the McIntyre Arena moving forward.

“I think it was just a matter of believing in ourselves, sticking to the game plan and not letting the crowd get to us,” he said.

“They have the biggest crowds here in the league, but we just didn’t let that bother us.”

Dirracolo is confident the Voodoos will be able to take down the Cubs, just like they finished off the Rock and before them the Hearst Lumberjacks.

“We have a great group of guys and I really believe in them,” he said.

The Rock got on the scoreboard first Tuesday night, as Clark scored his 10th goal of the playoffs, just over three minutes into the opening period.

And Lucas Lowe added his second goal of the playoffs, with just under three minutes remaining in the frame.

Even though the Rock emerged with a two-goal advantage heading into the first intermission, they were outshot by the Voodoos 15-11 and many fans had an uneasy feeling they might be about to experience a case of Déjà vu all over again.

“Even at 2-0, I thought they were carrying the play,” Perry said.

“They were just better than us tonight, for whatever reason. It doesn’t take away from how great our group has been all year. It was a hell of a season and this is a tough way to go down.”

That premonition proved to be accurate, as the Voodoos responded with a pair of second-period goals to tie things up at 2-2.

Former Rock forward Dylan McElhinny netted a power-play marker, his sixth goal of the playoffs, just shy of the midway point.

And Ryan Patrick added his third goal of the playoffs with 56.7 seconds remaining in the frame.

Tucker Shields put the Voodoos in front 3-2 13:37 into the third period when he netted his fifth goal of the playoffs, setting the stage for the fateful exchange of goals in the final three minutes of the contest.

The Rock coach acknowledged it was tough to see the Junior ‘A’ hockey careers of so many players who had been so important to the franchise come to an end.

“Even last year when we won, it was tough to see those 20 year olds go out,” Perry said.

“They have done so much for this program and there are a few of them I have been coaching for five years and it is so emotional. It is just tough. They are good kids but we just couldn’t get it done tonight.

“This one is going to sting for a little bit, but they will (eventually) look back on this season with great memories, I hope. It was a great year, but it is not easy to win. From the jump this year, we were battling and battling after a long season last year and a short off season. Then, we were right back at it and it took us a while to get going.

“We put up another 41 wins, or whatever it was (48 counting the playoffs). It was a hell of a job. It’s not easy to stay at the top.”

The coach intends to take some time to digest things before he begins to contemplate assembling a championship roster for 2024-25.

“I have another team (family) at home that I had to spend a lot of time away from and I am just looking forward to spending some time with them,” Perry said.

“I am going to miss this group. This was a great group. They were fun to coach and I am going to miss them a lot.”

Dirracolo turned aside 29 of the 32 shots the Rock directed his way to earn his eighth win of the playoffs.

Boivin, who stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss for the Rock.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Turner, Clark and McElhinny … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 1,766 … The NOJHL has announced Game 1 of the final between the Voodoos and the Cubs will be played in Greater Sudbury’s Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on Thursday, at 7:05 p.m.