GALLERY: Rock blow three-goal lead, drop OT decision to Vikings

Elliot Lake Vikings goalie Matthew Vahramian pounces on a rebound before Timmins Rock forward Thomas Beard can get his stick on the puck while being supported by defenders, from left, Blake Menard, Lukas Samoila and Nathan Marincola during Saturday night’s NOJHL contest at the Centennial Arena. The Vikings battled back from a three-goal deficit to edge the Rock 6-5 in overtime. NORTHERN EXPOSURE PHOTOGRAPHY/FOR NOJHL NETWORK jpg, TD, apsmc

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Photos: Northern Exposures Photography

ELLIOT LAKE, Ont. –The Timmins Rock’s stumble out of the gate to kick off the 2023-24 NOJHL regular-season campaign continued with a 6-5 overtime setback against the Vikings at the Centennial Arena Saturday night.

It was the second game of a two-game road trip for the defending NOJHL champions who dropped a 5-2 decision to the Cubs in Greater Sudbury Friday night.

Clearly, it wasn’t the start to the campaign Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry had been hoping for when they embarked on the weekend excursion.

“Certainly it wasn’t the start we wanted, but championships aren’t won in September,” he said.

“We have a long way to go and the team last year struggled early on (4-0-0), as well.

“This group is feeling a lot of pressure trying to live up to last year’s group but I think it is important they know it is going to be on their own time. They are a different team and they don’t have to live up to any expectations, other than their own.

“It is going to be a process for them to get going and find their own identity, kind of get out of that shadow of last year’s season.”

The coach noted “a combination of things” led to the Rock’s weekend woes.

“I guess, we got a little careless,” Perry said, when asked what went wrong after the Rock had built up a 5-2 lead Saturday night.

“We dominated the play, time of possession and shots but it seemed like every mistake we made ended up in the back of our net.

“We are still having problems tracking on the backcheck and a couple of bad bounces went in on (Rock goalie) Dryden (Riley). It was his first start and he probably would have wanted a few of those back, but it was just one of those nights.

“We played a good road game and we had the puck all night, had a ton of chances.”

Despite outshooting the Vikings 11-6 in the opening frame Saturday night, the Rock trailed the contest 1-0 after the opening 20 minutes.

“Obviously, in that first period it took us a little while to get going,” Perry said.

Gavin McLenaghan’s third goal of the season staked the Vikings to that advantage.

Jaden Lyons got the Rock back on even terms when he scored his first goal of the season 4:26 into the middle frame.

It took the Vikings just 58 seconds to regain the lead, however, with Dylan Leslie netting his first goal of the season.

Then, four-straight goals in the span of 11 minutes appeared to put the Rock in the driver’s seat.

Thomas Beard netted the first of those markers, to tie things up, and Josh Russell followed with his first goal of the season to put the Rock in front five-and-a-half minutes later.

Harry Clark, with his first goal of the season and Russell, with his second goal of the night, a marker originally credited to captain Felix Cadieux-Fredette, then found the back of the net to put the Rock up 5-2.

The Vikings were able to get one of those goals back before the end of the period, however, as Tyler Thompson scored his first goal of the season with 46 seconds remaining on the clock.

“We got five (goals) in the second and it looked like we were going to close that one out, but they scored a goal with (less than) a minute left in the second, then they scored a goal with (less than) a minute left in the third,” Perry said.

“The night before, they (Cubs) scored a goal with (less than) a minute left in the first and then with (less than) a minute left in the second. Those things will kill you.”

Saturday night, the third period proved to be all Vikings, with the home side scoring twice and outshooting the Rock 15-7.

McLenaghan’s second tally of the night and fourth of the season cut the deficit to a single goal and with less than two minutes remaining in regulation Anthony Bertrand’s first goal of the season tied things up for the Vikings.

Leslie’s second goal of the night and season, 1:24 into overtime, then secured the victory for the Vikings.

Perry acknowledged the Rock need to get more comfortable with the team’s systems in order to develop greater consistency.

“I think every team would say that, not just because we lost,” he said.

“We played good both games, but that’s just hockey, we had some bad bounces and the puck ended up in the back of our net.

“Certainly there are some areas we need to clean up. Things are good for a majority of time but when it breaks down, it really breaks down right now.

“It’s a little disappointing, because our veteran guys, the guys we are counting on to lead seem to be the ones who are making those mistakes and they are the ones who are getting scored on.

“You would expect it out of the young guys who are coming in, not knowing the system, but it is our veteran guys right now and it is super frustrating, disappointing.

“I know we will be better, so we just move on to the next one.”

D-man Sam Gallagher, one of four newcomers on the Rock blue-line, was the lone player the coach chose to single out following Saturday night’s overtime loss.

“From an individual standpoint, Sam Gallagher has been the brightest spot on our roster,” Perry said.

“He has been absolutely outstanding. He was great Friday night and he was great in Elliot Lake Saturday night. He is a pretty incredible young player.”

Matthew Vahramian turned aside 31 of the 36 shots the Rock directed his way to earn the victory for the Vikings.

Riley, who stopped 25 of the 31 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.


The Rock’s defence of their NOJHL championship got off on the wrong foot Friday night, as they dropped a 5-2 decision to the Cubs at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.

The coach acknowledged the Rock ran up against a pretty talented team in their regular-season opener.

“Last season, we finished first in the NOJHL by one point (over the West Division Cubs) and they got the majority of their guys back,” Perry said.

“That’s a contending team, right off the bat, but we played good, again. We had our chances. We had 35 shots, but their goalie (Noah Metivier) played well.

“Our penalty kill kind of let us down, two power-play goals against.”

Like Saturday night, the Rock found themselves trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes of play, despite outshooting the Cubs 13-7.

Nolan Newton’s power-play marker, his first goal of the season, with 46 seconds remaining on the clock, supplied Greater Sudbury with their advantage.

Hudson Martin doubled the lead to 2-0 just 1:36 into the middle frame when he notched his first goal of the season.

Newton followed with his second goal of the night and season just over three minutes later.

“Once it was 3-0, we started playing well, maybe around the 11-minute mark of the second period,” Perry said.

“We really started taking control of the game, it (the puck) was in their end the rest of the period.”

The Rock finally got on the scoreboard at the 11:31 mark when Liam Wells netted his first tally of 2023-24.

Kaeden McArthur’s first tally of the season, late in the period, pulled the Rock to within a goal, but Oliver Smith scored his first goal of the season with 41 seconds remaining on the clock to make it a 4-2 hockey game heading into the second intermission.

“Less than a minute left and we played a two-on-two wrong,” Perry said.

“We over-backchecked and didn’t pick up the guy and it (the puck) ended up in our net, becomes 4-2 and kills any kind of momentum we had.

“Then, we started the third period and we were playing really well, in the (offensive) zone, getting chances, good looks, took a bad penalty and it killed out momentum.

“That was the story Friday night, but it was certainly a very good hockey team we played and I don’t think the score is indicative of how well we played.

Cameron Walker closed out the scoring for the Cubs in the third period, picking up his third goal of the season.”

The coach opted to single out a couple of Rock players for their efforts against the Cubs Friday night.

“I thought Kaeden McArthur was great all night,” Perry said.

“He was very good and Sam Gallagher, again.”

Forward Pavlo Kobikov, one of two Ukrainian players signed by the Rock, did not see action in either of the weekend games.

“He practiced on Thursday, but he hadn’t skated since April, so we thought it would be best to give him some more time, get him a full week of practice,” Perry said.

“Hopefully, he will be ready to go for Friday night (home opener against the Kirklland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, 7:30 p.m.).

Denys Pasko, the other new Ukrainian Rock forward, is scheduled to arrive in Timmins Tuesday night.

Metivier blocked 33 of the 35 shots he faced to pick up the victory.

Patrick Boivin, who stopped 22 of the 27 shots directed his way, was tagged with the loss for the Rock.

NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of Saturday night’s game were Leslie, Russell and McLenaghan, while Newton, Smith and Metivier were selected Friday night … The Rock went 2-4 on the power play Saturday night, while the Vikings were 0-1 with the man advantage. Friday night, the Rock were 0-1 with the man advantage, while the Cubs were 2-6 on the power play … Official attendance at the Centennial Arena Saturday night was 480, while 280 people attended Friday night’s contest at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex … Saturday’s other action saw the Hearst Lumberjacks hang on to edge the Gold Miners 4-3 in Kirkland Lake and the Thunderbirds double up the Soo Eagles 4-2 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. … The Rock will return home to host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m., and the Soo Thunderbirds on Sunday, at 3 p.m.