By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Rock came up one goal short in their quest to ground the Voodoos at the Sportsplex Saturday night.
Trailing 2-0 after 40 minutes, the Rock were able to cut the Voodoos lead to 2-1 on a third-period goal by Stewart Parnell, his seventh of the season, but that would be as close as they would be able to come to getting back on even terms in the contest.
They pulled goalie Albert Rogers in favour of an extra attacker in the dying minutes of the contest, but the Voodoos were able to keep them at bay to make the final score 2-1.
Despite the loss, Rock assistant coach Marc Bisson felt his squad played a solid 60 minutes Saturday night following a 4-2 victory over the Rapids in French River Friday night.
“Friday night, we probably left with the win less satisfied than we were tonight with a 2-1 loss against these guys,” he said.
“It was a great game. I am sure none of the fans went home disappointed. It was a well-played game on both sides of the puck, a little bit chippy, with quite a few penalties and a little animosity.
“It is beginning to develop into a little bit of a rivalry. It would have been great to squeeze out at least a point, but we were happy with the effort and the compete level from our guys.”
It was a costly regulation loss for the Rock (25-11-3-0), as the Cochrane Crunch (28-11-4-1) were able to complete a two-game sweep of the Eskis by posting a 7-4 win in Iroquois Falls Saturday night, increasing their lead over Timmins for second place in the NOJHL’s East Division standings to eight points.
The Rock still have five games in hand on their rivals, however.
Voodoos blue-liner Dayton Murray proved to be a big thorn in the side of the Rock Saturday night, as he netted both Powassan goals.
His power-play goal midway through the first period of play staked the home side to a 1-0 lead.
Murray then added his second of the night and 12th of the season just 45 seconds into the second period to increase the Voodoos’ advantage to 2-0.
“His first goal was a power-play goal and it was one of those shots with some traffic in front of the net that Rogers was a little bit screened on and it went in off the post,” Bisson said.
“It was a good shot. On his second goal, it was basically the same thing. There was a little bit of a breakdown, with somebody missing an assignment on the backcheck.
“We gave the puck to Murray in that area where he has a great shot.”
Despite being down 2-0 at that point the Rock didn’t feel there was any need to panic.
“The message was, ‘hey guys, let’s be patient,’” Bisson said.
“We just need to get the one goal and then, if there are two or three minutes left, we can look at pulling the goalie and putting some pressure on them.”
As it turned out, there was much more time on the clock, but penalty woes in the third period kept the Rock from being able to mount the sustained pressure they were hoping for to be able to get back in the contest.
The Voodoos were full credit for their 2-1 victory Saturday night.
“They are just a skilled team and they have got four lines that can play, and a guy like Murray who can jump into the play just adds another dimension,” Bisson said.
“That sometimes makes them a hard team to defend against.”
As fans might expect, with the score being 2-1 both the Rock’s Rogers and the Voodoos’ Nate McDonald were at the top of their game Saturday night.
“Their goalie, Nate McDonald, played very well and he made quite a few saves in the first period,” Bisson said.
“There is no way, the way we started, I think we had the first eight or nine shots on goal that we would have been down without him in net. We came out after having a long day at the mall, having a meal and waiting around with our guns blazing.
“We put it to them right away and their goalie was able to make the saves and allow them to take the lead with the power-play goal.”
Despite trailing 1-0 after the first period, the Rock outshot the Voodoos 14-11 in the opening 20 minutes of play.
In addition to Rogers, there were a number of Rock players who stood out during Saturday night’s contest.
“Stewart Parnell got our goal today, but he does so much more for our team, as well,” Bisson said.
“Dean Kiriacou had a good game for us, also. He is kind of finding his way with us and learning a little bit more about our program, what we expect of him.
“And, on the backend, I thought (Grant) McClellan was really good today and logged quite a few minutes, especially after we lost (Brendan) Campbell.”
Campbell was ejected from the game after taking a checking-from-behind penalty in the second period.
New Rock forward Maxime Lague, who made his NOJHL debut Friday night in French River, played his second game with his new team Saturday night against the Voodoos.
“He is a nice skater and he seems to read the play well,” Bisson said.
“He was playing on the fourth line, so he didn’t get a whole lot of minutes, but I think he is definitely a player who is going to help us with our depth. We have a lot of games coming up in a short amount of time.”
McDonald blocked 27 of the 28 shots the Rock fired his way to pick up the win for the Voodoos.
Rogers turned as 29 of the 31 shots he faced Saturday night and was tagged with the loss.
Friday night’s game in French River was a bit unusual if for no other reason than the game-winning goal was scored into an empty net.
Alexandre Brisson first of two empty-net goals stood up to be the game-winner in the Rock’s 4-2 triumph over the Rapids at the Noelville Arena.
It was the Rapids who got on the scoresheet first Friday night, as Adrian Nicholas beat Rock netminder Albert Rogers for his first of two goals on the night and third of the season 6:37 into the first period.
Wayne Mathieu’s 18th goal of the season, just past the midway point in the frame, got the Rock back on even terms prior to the end of the first period of play, however.
Kiriacou’s first goal in a Rock uniform late in the second period provided the visitors with a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
That goal stood up until the 19:09 mark of the final period when Brisson scored his first goal of the night and 15th of the season into an empty net with Rapids goalie Korlan Vader on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
That marker would stand up to be the game-winning goal, as Nichols netted his second goal of the night and fourth on the season to pull the Rapids back to within a goal with 29 seconds remaining in regulation.
Brisson provided the Rock with a little insurance when he scored his second goal of the night and 16th of the season, also into an empty net, just 11 seconds later and with 18 seconds remaining on the clock.
Rogers turned aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced to earn the victory for the Rock.
Vader blocked 30 of the 32 shots the Rock fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES —The Rock were without the services of captain Jordan Rendle (illness) for both weekend games and defenceman Spencer Segui (upper-body) missed Saturday night’s contest in Powassan … The three stars Saturday night were Murray, McDonald and Voodoos forward Tyler Gervais-Rolfe … The Rock went 0-6 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-6 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 319 … Saturday night’s other action saw the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners edge the Canadians 4-3 in Rayside-Balfour, the Blind River Beavers get past the Eagles 5-2 in Sault, Mich., and the Elliot Lake Wildcats edge the Rapids 3-2 in French River … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when the Blind River Beavers make their only visit of the 2016-17 campaign to the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.