Mike Levin found the back of the net on the Voodoos’ first attempt and Alex Bugeja made that goal stand up by blocking all three attempts he faced in a 3-2 victory over the Timmins Rock at the Sportsplex Thursday night.
The battle for top spot in the NOJHL’s overall and East Division standings left the Voodoos (16-3-3-1) with a two-point lead, although the Rock (16-2-1-1) still have three games in hand on their rivals.
Thursday’s shootout saw Rock snipers Tyler Schwindt, Nicolas Pigeon and Liam Wells all come up short on their attempts, while the Voodoos second shooter, Rodion Tatarenko, was also denied.
With the Voodoos already ahead 1-0 in the shootout and the Rock out of shooters, there was no need for a third shot attempt by Powassan.
Even though his team was able to salvage a single point Thursday night, Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was not happy with the effort he saw on the ice.
“It just wasn’t good enough, not enough tonight,” he said.
The Rock actual struck first in Thursday night’s contest, with Nolan Ring’s fourth goal of the season staking the visitors to a 1-0 lead three minutes into the contest.
Voodoos captain Cameron Lemcke responded with his seventh goal of the season just past the midway mark in the frame, however, to tie things up heading into the first intermission.
Once again, the Rock took a one-goal lead just over seven minutes into the second period, as Pigeon netted his fifth goal of the season, with the Rock on the power play.
The Voodoos tied things up at 2-2 prior to the end of the frame, with Justin Spurrell scoring a power-play marker, his third goal of the season.
Following a scoreless third period, the two teams played a five-minute, three-on-three overtime session without a winner being determined.
That set the stage for the game-ending shootout.
Given the importance of the contest, Perry had been expecting to see more out of the Rock Thursday night.
“A 2-2 game, with two good teams going at it and a shootout loss, we just weren’t consistent enough in our effort,” he said.
“We missed a lot of passes that were right on the tape and there were just not enough guys battling.
“We would have one guy working in the corner in the O zone and he would not have much support.
“We had spurts of being really good. Then they would have spurts. There were just a lot of momentum shifts back and forth.
“I guess that’s what you have to expect when you play them.”
Perry was once again happy with his team’s goaltending Thursday night.
“Gavin McCarthy played a solid game,” he said.
“He has been really good here the last month and a half, all year really.
“Other than that, there were not too many other individuals (who played well).
“Ringer chipped in with a goal on a nice play off a D zone face-off win. Wellsy (Liam Wells) took the puck end to end and Juice (Justin Charette) put the puck on net.
“We crashed the net and kind of got an ugly one there.
“Then on Pigeon’s goal on the power play they were giving us fits, playing really high on the PK (penalty kill).
“We made a quick adjustment to move it low, got it to Pigeon all alone in front of the net and he put it under the bar.
“So, it was a good job by those guys, adjusting to that.
“A lot of guys were just okay tonight.”
Okay might be good enough against some teams, but clearly it wasn’t against the Voodoos.
“With first place on the line, we just did a lot of uncharacteristic things,” Perry said.
“We gave the puck away a little too much. We are a puck-possession team and we want to hang onto the puck.
“That’s all mental stuff I thought we could have done a better job on tonight.”
The Rock were without the services of forwards Dylan McElhinny (suspension for a head contact penalty and game misconduct during Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners) and Nicholas Frederick (upper-body injury) and Aiden Farr (upper-body injury) Thursday night.
“We don’t know how many games McElhinny received,” Perry said.
“It is under review.”
Bugeja, who turned aside 29 of the 31 shots the Rock directed his way, earned his 11th win of the season.
McCarthy, who blocked 35 of the 37 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Levin, Bugeja and McCarthy … The Rock went 1-4 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 103 … Thursday’s other action saw Hearst Lumberjacks knock of the Crunch 5-1 in Cochrane, the Soo Thunderbirds thump the Cubs 6-2 in Greater Sudbury and the Beavers dump the Elliot Lake Red Wings 4-1 in Blind River … The Rock will return to action on Friday when they host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.