Affiliate player Riley Brousseau slides the puck under the stick of Gold Miners defenceman John Serafin and into a wide-open Kirkland Lake net to the right of goalie Ryan Winter for the Timmins Rock’s only goal during Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. Brousseau’s goal — his first in the NOJHL — signaled the start of the Rock’s annual Teddy Bear Toss, but it was not enough to keep the home side from dropping a 3-1 decision to the Gold Miners. The Rock will entertain the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena Thursday in a contest scheduled to start at 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – On a night that featured their annual Teddy Bear Toss, the Timmins Rock’s offence went into hibernation during a 3-1 loss to the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena.
Despite firing 40 shots on Ryan Winter, the Rock were only able to get one goal past the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners netminder — and that was scored by affiliate player Riley Brousseau.
Needless to say, Rock coach Corey Beer — back behind the bench after serving a three-game suspension — was not impressed, especially with his veteran players.
“I thought we lost puck battles routinely throughout the game, especially during the first period,” he said.
“Not wanting to compete and not wanting to be first on pucks, we were out of the game mentally right from the start.
“I watched the last couple of games on HockeyTV while I was away and we certainly looked like a team that wasn’t prepared.”
The Rock have had an issue at various points in the season with putting the puck in the net and it certainly seemed like the team suffered a relapse Tuesday night.
“Maybe we were a little unlucky,” Beer said.
“I thought we did create some good opportunities, but we were a little snake bitten in tight. We put up 40 shots though and we will tiddy up the scoring.”
Tuesday night’s contest marked the third time the Rock and Gold Miners had faced off against each other in Timmins in the past 11 days.
“Their coach, Ryan Wood, did a good job of getting them ready,” Beer said.
“Still, I couldn’t stand our first period. As much as they have a really good hockey team over there, when your defencemen’s gaps are 30 feet off of guys and you don’t box out in front of the net, you don’t play gritty, you don’t play dirty, you are not going to win.
“We are a team that wants to play with the puck and if you are chasing the other team, trying to get it the entire game, this is the result. Our guys need to put on their work boots next game and realize there is a Junior ‘A’ hockey game starting at 7 p.m.”
The Gold Miners jumped in front 1-0 at the 1:42 mark of the opening period when Tyler Fyfe scored the first of his two goals on the night and his 21st of the season.
With fans waiting patiently to rain down teddy bears upon the ice surface at the McIntyre Arena, it seemed to take forever for the Rock to score their first — and only — goal.
Finally, at the 16:45 mark of the second period, Brousseau — playing in his fourth game in a Rock uniform, scored his first NOJHL goal.
That was the signal for the fans to let loose with their teddy bears and the game was paused for a number of minutes while the Rock players gathered up the stuffed animals which will be donated to the North Eastern Ontario Family and Child Services organization for distribution to its clients.
Shortly after the action resumed, Gold Miners captain Marshal Nikitin scored what would prove to be the game-winning marker, his 15th of the season to put Kirkland Lake in front 2-1.
With less than two minutes remaining in the second period, that goal took away any momentum the Rock may have gained from Brousseau’s tally.
Fife then added a little insurance when he netted his second goal of the game and his 22nd of the season midway through the third period.
The Rock pulled goalie Tyler Masternak in favour of an extra attacker in the game’s final minute and the move appeared to pay dividends when the Rock got the puck behind Winter with 13.4 seconds remaining on the clock.
Referee Steven Swain originally signalled a goal, but after consulting with fellow referee Dan Ouellet and linesmen Mario Pittui and Stewart McLeod, it was correctly ruled the puck had been deflected into the Kirkland Lake net with a high stick.
Had that goal counted, it would have cut the Rock’s deficit to one goal, but they would not have had much time left to press for the equalizer.
That would prove to be a moot point, however, as the Gold Miners held on to make the final score 3-1.
With their victory, the Gold Miners (14-12-4-2) strengthened their hold on third place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings, while the fifth-place Rock (10-18-1-2) failed to make up ground on their rivals.
Despite the loss, there were a number of Rock players who impressed Beer Tuesday night.
“You can’t say enough good things about C.J. Bradburn,” he said.
“His compete level was through the roof. I loved his game tonight.
“And Tyler Gilberds is going to be a nice hockey player. We have to tiddy up a couple of things away from the puck for him, but that’s to be expected.
“Evan Kentish-Stack does a lot of things away from the puck that go unnoticed and I am always happy with his play.
“I can’t say enough good things about Riley Brousseau and Kobe Barrette, as well. Back-to-back games at home, and they were our only goal scorers.
“Some our guys, our big guys, have got to take a look in the mirror and figure out how to get things done. If you don’t practise the right way, this is what happens.
“Hats off to our guys who did compete, but the rest of the guys have to take a long look at themselves.”
Forward Paul Spadafora, who was acquired from the Milton Icehawks, of the OJHL, earlier in the day, made his debut in a Rock uniform Tuesday night.
“I know him and I think he is going to be a really good player for us long term,” Beer said.
“He flew in late last night and he probably still had dead legs. We tried to spot him in some offensive opportunities tonight and I thought he did pretty well.”
With four out of the next five games on home ice prior to the NOJHL’s Christmas break, Beer realizes it is important for the Rock to collect as many points as they can.
“This is a very crucial point in the season,” he said.
“We will certainly do everything we can to prepare these guys to play some good hockey, but some of our veteran guys have got to take the bull by the horns. I was very disappointed tonight, with our preparation points. We had some 20 year old guys who were out for a Sunday skate here tonight.
“I was definitely not impressed with some of those 20 year old players tonight, but we will try to tiddy that up.”
Gold Miners coach Ryan Wood was pleased with the effort put forth by his squad from start to finish.
“We worked hard,” he said.
“We wanted to make sure our defensive zone coverage was spot on and if we were going to give up shots, to make sure it was from the outside.
“Don’t get me wrong. Timmins played a really good game and got a lot of shots to the net, but they were mostly outside perimeter shots. When you give Ryan Winter the opportunity to make those types of saves, it makes the game a little easier for him.
“We stuck to that game plan and it worked out pretty good.”
Wood was especially pleased with his team’s compete level and its ability to be first on pucks.
“We had a good practice on Monday and went over some stuff,” he said.
“We had good buy in tonight, especially when it came to the stuff we wanted to do in our defensive zone.
“This is a hard barn to play in and a hard barn to get points in. We haven’t had a ton of success here. We knew we had to come in and work hard to win this hockey game. Fortunately, that’s what happened tonight.”
Wood was pleased with the Gold Miners team-first effort Tuesday night, but opted to single out a few players for a little extra praise.
“Winter obviously made all of the key saves,”
“That goal Timmins scored wasn’t his fault. He made the initial save and they scored on the rebound.
“I thought Declan Carter played an amazing game and Vito Sica played a great game.
“And it was nice to get Marshal Nikitin back in the lineup. You could tell he is still a little rusty.
“I thought Quinn Schneidmiller had a solid game back in the defensive zone and (Jake) Semmens is steady. There is nothing special about his game. He just plays a simple game.
“I thought everybody chipped in tonight.”
Winter turned aside 39 of the 40 shots the Rock fired his way to earn his 10th victory on the season for the Gold Miners.
Masternak stopped 17 of the 20 shots he faced and was tagged with the loss for the Rock.
NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game were Fife, Nikitin and Winter … The Rock did not dress forwards Tyler Planetta (undisclosed), Derek Seguin (fractured jaw) and Stewart Parnell (upper-body injury), as well as defencemen Shawn Sloan (upper-body injury) and Eric Paquette (lower-body injury) and goalie Eric Jackson (lower-body injury) … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Gold Miners were 1-2 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena was 620 … The Rock will return to action on Thursday night when they host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.