VIDEO / GALLERY: Rock double up Thunderbirds, secure top spot in NOJHL

Timmins Rock forward Brady Harroun, No. 12, is congratulated by teammates, from left, Kenyon Nyman, Nicholas Frederick, Nicolas Pigeon and Lucas Piekarczyk after scoring his 50th goal of the season during the third period of Sunday afternoon’s 4-2 win over the Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena. The victory allowed the Rock to secure top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock locked up top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings by doubling up the Soo Thunderbirds 4-2 at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock locked up top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings by doubling up the Soo Thunderbirds 4-2 at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.

It was the final game of the 2022-23 regular-season schedule for the Rock who stumbled to a 7-3 setback against the Blind River Beavers at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.

And the Rock treated their fans to a number of individual milestones, as well, with Brady Harroun hitting the 50-goal mark, Nicholas Frederick reaching the 20-goal plateau, Captain Nicolas Pigeon earning his 80th assist and blue-liner Kenyon Nyman picking up his 50th helper of the season.

In addition, Dharan Cap, of the Thunderbirds, hit the 30-goal standard, although the fans seemed less impressed with that feat.

Harroun became the first 50-goal scorer in the NOJHL since 2015-16 when Logan Fredericks (Kirkland Lake Gold Miners) and Hunter Atchison (Cochrane Crunch) notched 51 and 50 tallies respectively in 53 games.

And Pigeon, who finished with 107 points, to win the regular-season scoring championship, became the first NOJHL player since Caleb Serre, of the Beavers, with 113, to hit the century mark.

The Rock, who gave up five first-period markers during Friday night’s setback, gave up the first goal Sunday afternoon, as well, with Cap netting his 29th tally of the season, with the Thunderbirds on the power play.

It took less than a minute for the Rock to get that one back, however, as Frederick notched a power-play marker to tie things up at 1-1.

And then, with 44.38 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Lucas Piekarczyk gave the Rock a lead they would not surrender when he potted his 29th goal of the season.

Just over six minutes into the middle frame, blue-liner Christophe Petit netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his third tally of the season.

Cap’s second power-play marker of the game 4:41 into the third period pulled the Thunderbirds back to within a goal, but that would be as close as they would come to getting back on even terms.

In Alexander Ovechkin-like form Harroun blasted a one-timer past Thunderbirds goalie Landon Miller for another power-play marker with just under eight minutes remaining in regulation to provide the Rock with a little insurance.

“We were working it on the other side on the power play and Pige (Pigeon) got it over to me and my job was to just put it in the net,” he said.

“I couldn’t have done it without him. It was a great pass.

“The one-timer is my bread and butter and luckily I was able to sneak it over his glove.”

The 20-year-old St. Albert, Alta., product acknowledged the goal was as important because it gave the Rock a two-goal cushion as it was because it was his 50th of the season.

“Our goal after the second intermission was to hold the lead,” Harroun said.

“You have to do that down the stretch and in the playoffs to win games and they got a lucky one off our skate, into the back of the net on the power play but we just kept at it and it was a big one and we were able to close it out.”

The two goals Harroun netted in Friday night’s 7-3 loss to the Beavers put him in position to hit the 50-goal mark Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t have my best period in the first period last game and I knew I had to step up for the guys,” he said.

“So, that’s what I did. I tried to lead by example.

“The individual stats don’t mean too much to me. It’s nice to get them but I am here for one job and that’s to win the NOJHL championship.”

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was pleased to see his squad secure home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

“It is obviously a big accomplishment for our organization,” he said.

“I think the last time was 2010, when the (Abitibi) Eskimos did it, so it has been 13 years.

“Obviously, it is a nice feather in our cap we don’t play for regular season championships. We play for (playoff) championships and now the fun begins.”

While no coach wants to see his team outscored in any period 5-0, like the Rock were Friday night, Perry wasn’t overly concerned about the setback.

“It was just a game,” he said.

“Every team has bad nights. We had a bad 20 minutes and we got behind the eight ball.

“It was just uncharacteristic of our group. Everybody was surprised, everybody was panicked, but it was just another game.

“We got beat by a really good team. They showed up and we didn’t.”

One of the keys to the Rock’s victory Sunday afternoon was the number of shots blocked by the team’s blue-liners and forwards before the puck could get to goalie Patrick Boivin.

“I don’t even know if he (Kyle Trottier) enjoys it (blocking shots), or just does it. He eats a lot of shots, all our D do, our penalty killers, too,” Perry said.

“They do a fantastic job and those are the kind of things it takes to win.

“It goes through our bench and it’s contagious. It fires guys up.”

In addition to netting the game-winning goal, Petit was once again solid on the defensive side of the puck.

“He is as steady as they come,” Perry said.

“He is a good puck mover, he has great gaps, he is a great defender and he is huge on our PK (penalty kill).

Frederick, the Rock’s Energizer Bunny, once again demonstrated why he is one of the coach’s favourite players Sunday afternoon.

“It is all in a day’s work for him,” Perry said.

“That’s just who he is and how he plays the game. He does it every practice, every game, he holds guys accountable.

“Not only is he the guy telling guys to do it, he goes out and leads by example.”

The coach appreciated the importance of Harroun’s 50th goal, both individually and in terms of locking down the win that secured top spot in the overall standings.

“It is a super great accomplishment for him and I am happy for him,” Perry said.

“He is an unbelievable man. He shows up and does his work every day and our whole group was really excited for him and that just means he is a really good teammate and person.

“That shot of his is hard to stop and you give us too many power plays and one of them is going to go in.”

Boivin stopped 12 of the 14 shots he faced to earn his NOJHL-best 27th win of the season.

Miller, who turned aside 29 of the 33 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of the game Sunday afternoon were Harroun, Frederick and Cap … The Rock went 2-4 on the power play Sunday afternoon, while the Thunderbirds were 2-5 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday was 695 … Sunday’s only other action saw the Blind River Beavers blank the Crunch 12-0 in Cochrane.

“Highlight of the Night” – NOJHL YouTube Channel