By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Andy Baker’s 22nd goal of the season 30 seconds into the second overtime period lifted the Powassan Voodoos to a 4-3 win over the Timmins Rock Saturday night at the McIntyre Arena.
It was the 16th-straight win for the Voodoos (23-3-1-0) who sit atop the NOJHL overall standings, while the double-overtime loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Rock (18-6-1-0).
Combined with a 3-1 victory by the Crunch (17-7-4-1) over the Eskis in Iroquois Falls, it leaves Timmins two points behind Cochrane in the East Division standings, but with four games in hand.
Despite the loss, Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne was happy with his squad’s effort Saturday night.
“The game could have gone either way,” he said.
“We had our chance, but their goalie (Nate McDonald) came through. We couldn’t buy a goal. We had all kinds of chances in front of their net.
“This is a game where not too many mistakes were made by either team. The mistakes that were made cost us goals and cost them goals.”
The Rock got a goal from captain Jordan Rendle, his 18th of the season, with 7:26 remaining in regulation to force overtime in a contest both coaches described as having a “playoff-like atmosphere.”
Following that goal, the Rock swarmed McDonald and had a number of chances from in close to score a go-ahead goal, but the netminder held his ground.
Then, in the first overtime, with the two sides playing four-on-four, the Rock had a power play, but again McDonald stood tall.
With the two sides playing three-on-three in the second overtime, Baker took a pass from Ryan Bazzana and beat Rock goalie Albert Rogers for the game-winning goal.
“Rogers made some really big saves for us tonight, especially in the second period when they had 12 shots,” Gagne said.
“He came up big for us there, especially when we lost momentum.”
Gagne was impressed with the play of both teams Saturday night.
“I wish we would have been able to get two points instead of just the one, so we could have broken their streak, but they are a good hockey club and they know they played against a great hockey team tonight,” he said.
“It was a good, hard-fought game. We had our chances and they had their chances. It was really entertaining for our (1,662) fans. The first three or four shifts, you could see our players were a little nervous playing in front of so many fans.
“Some of our normal D to D passes, up to the wingers were not as sharp as normal. Even our first couple of power plays were not sharp.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net during the opening 20 minutes, as both Rogers and McDonald made numerous fine saves.
The Rock finally ended the goalless drought 8:11 into the second period, as defenceman Jared Hester scored his eighth goal of the season.
Ten minutes later, Gabriel Rheault scored his sixth goal of the season, a power-play marker, to get the Voodoos back on even terms.
Then, with 33 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Tyson Gilmour — the son of former NHL star Doug Gilmour — scored his 10th goal of the season, also on the power play, to put the visitors in front 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
The Rock tied things up at 2-2 just 50 seconds into the third period, however, as Wayne Mathieu scored his 12th goal of the season.
Just under six minutes later, Gilmour netted his second of the night and 11th of the season, as he broke down the right wing, ducked under an attempted hit, cut across in front of Rogers and buried a shot for the go-ahead goal to put the Voodoos in front 3-2.
That set the stage for Rendle’s game-tying goal and Baker’ game-winning marker.
Saturday night’s double-overtime loss was Game 2 of a tough five-game stretch for the Rock that has them playing the Crunch and the Voodoos twice each, as well as the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.
They have managed to pick up three or a possible four points during the first two games of that stretch.
“It’s nice that we have been able to get three out of those four points, but we are not looking at the next three games,” Gagne said.
“We are just looking at that next game (in Cochrane Friday night) and we are looking to get two points from that game.
“Still, it (getting three out of four points) is a good feeling. We have a good thing going right now and so do the Voodoos. Losing a point tonight is not going to hurt our morale.”
Gagne was happy with his entire team Saturday night, but he chosen to single out a couple of players for a little extra praise.
“Our captain, Rendle, played really well tonight and Hester moved up into the play a couple of times when he was called upon,” he said.
“Shankar deserves kudos, as well, because he is a real agitator out there on the ice. He really does his job and finishes his checks.”
Voodoos coach Scott Wray was happy to see his team come out on top of what he thought was a hard-fought game.
“It was a lot of fun to be a part of this hockey game,” he said.
“They have a really good hockey club over there and picking up Rogers really changed their whole back end. He played very well today and they had us on our heels for most of the third period, but we found a way to win.”
The Voodoos had to work hard for their 16th-straight victory, especially during the first overtime period.
“We had that penalty kill in overtime, three-on-four, and I would say our penalty kill has been one of the secrets to the success of our season so far. It has been lights out and the guys have bought in. They sacrifice their bodies and they do what it takes to get that kill.”
Wray gave McDonald a lot of the credit for Saturday night’s victory.
“He is definitely becoming a top-end Junior ‘A’ goalie,” he said.
“We had Garrett Forest last year and McDonald is different, obviously, with the size and what not, but he is just as good, or better.”
Like Gagne, Wray was pleased with the effort put forth by his entire team but had a little extra praise for a couple of Voodoos.
“Tyson Gilmour was phenomenal tonight,” he said.
“He does stuff that just blows my mind. He scored his second goal tonight on a great individual effort, going down the wall. Somebody tried to lay him out and he just snuck through the hit and was patient enough to wait out Rogers.
“Nate (McDonald) was very, very good and we were good all the way down. Twenty guys were solid. The atmosphere here today was great and for a lot of our guys it was their first time playing front of that many people. It could have gone either way because we are so young, but I think everybody rose to the occasion.”
McDonald turned aside 31 of the 34 shots the Rock fired at him to earn the victory for the Voodoos.
Rogers was tagged with his first double overtime loss in three Rock stars and blocked 34 of the 38 shots he faced.
NOJHL NOTES — Among those taking part in the pregame ceremonies, as part of Rogers Hometown Hockey, were former NHLers Steve Sullivan and Wendel Clark, as well as Rogers Hometown Hockey co-host Tara Slone … The Voodoos lost forward Dyaln D’Agostino to an upper-body injury partway through the second period. There was no word following the contest as to how serious the injury may be … The three stars of the game were Baker, Gilmour and Rogers … Defenceman Spencer Segui, who had been out with an upper-body injury, returned to the Rock lineup … Twenty-year-old forward Liam Sweeney (17, 3-7-10, 8), who started the season with the Elliot Lake Wildcats, is in camp on a tryout basis … The Rock went 0-8 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 2-8 with the man advantage … Saturday night’s other NOJHL action saw Eagles defeat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 5-2 in Sault, Mich., and the Canadians double the Wildcats 4-2 in Rayside-Balfour … The Rock will return to action Friday night when they travel to Cochrane for a game against the Crunch at the Tim Horton Event Centre. The next home game for the Rock will be on Sunday, Dec. 4, when the Voodoos return to Timmins for another visit to the McIntyre Arena.