The Timmins Rock’s hold on top spot in the NOJHL’s overall and East Division standings is more tenuous following a 4-1 setback at the hands of the Voodoos Wednesday night at the Sportsplex.
In the wake of the contest, the Rock (22-5-1-1) now lead the Voodoos (20-6-4-1) by just a single point, but they still have two games in hand on their rivals.
“We just weren’t mentally prepared to play,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.
For the Voodoos, the victory was a little payback for the 7-2 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Rock in Timmins on Dec. 5.
“What did our guys think was going to happen,” Perry said.
“If we had gotten beat 7-2, what do you think our response would have been?
“We should have known they were going to come out hard.”
Three unanswered goals in the second half of the first period allowed the Voodoos to take command of Wednesday night’s contest.
Cameron Lemcke’s unassisted marker, his 11th goal of the season, got the puck rolling at the 12:19 mark.
Two-and-a-half minutes later, Jacob Dupont netted the first goal of his NOJHL career.
And Jackson Buffam followed with his fifth goal of the season 22 seconds later to put the Voodoos in front 3-0 heading to the first intermission.
Prior to that three-goal outburst, the Rock had not been playing too badly in the opinion of their coach.
“We had a great start,” Perry said.
“We had three or four great shifts, but we just made mental mistakes.
“We won a face-off in our own end, tried to go D to D, and they picked it off. It’s in too hard, we know that. We worked on breakouts in practice Tuesday.
“We know they are doing it, but for whatever reason we can’t make that hard over.
“They picked it off and it was in the back of our net.
“Then, they have a three-on-two and our guys are backchecking but they decide to change and the puck ends up with the trailer our backchecker should have caught and then they score from behind the net and we are down 3-0.
“It is just mental things. We weren’t ready to play. This Powassan team is very good and they take it seriously.
“Maybe our guys need to take things a little more seriously here.”
The Rock outshot the Voodoos 16-12 during the second period, but their deficit grew by another goal.
Mike Levin notched his 13th goal of the season, a power-play marker, with just 13 seconds remaining in the frame to increase the Voodoos’ advantage to 4-0.
The Rock were finally able to get on the scoreboard at the 7:38 mark of the third period, as blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz netted his 11th goal of the season.
That would prove to be as close as they would come to getting back on even terms, however, as the Voodoos went on to secure their 4-1 victory.
Perry was a little happier with what he saw from his Rock players in the second and third periods of Wednesday night’s contest.
“It was a 1-1 hockey game in the last 40 minutes,” he said.
“That’s what you expect when you play Powassan.
“We had a good push in the third period, but we had no net traffic. Nobody wanted to get there offensively.
“Our power play was stagnant and we just didn’t get enough chances.”
Asked if there were any positives his squad can take away from the contest, Perry’s answer was short, “No, not really.”
The response was similar when it came to individuals who impressed him with their play Wednesday night.
“No, not one,” he said.
“Some stood out in the wrong way.”
The Rock welcomed 20-year-old forward Gabinien Kioki back to the lineup Wednesday night.
Kioki, whose NOJHL career has also included stops in Cochrane with the Crunch and in Powassan with the Voodoos, last suited up for the Rock on Feb. 28, 2020.
“He played tonight and did okay for his first game in two years,” Perry said.
“He has only had a couple of practices with us, but he is an addition who is going to pay off, especially during the playoffs.”
Overall, the right-hand shooting Kioki (82, 35-33-68, 26) has produced solid offensive numbers everywhere he has played.
Originally from Attawapiskat, Kioki is a graduate of the Timmins Majors program.
“I coached him in Midget (now U18) and he was the only draft pick I had with the Timmins Majors,” Perry said.
Kioki was drafted with the 49th overall pick by North Bay Battalion in the 2018 OHL U18 Priority Selection.
Alex Bugeja, who stopped 39 of the 40 shots the Rock directed his way, earned his 14th win of the season.
Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy, who turned aside 28 of the 32 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Buffam, Bugeja and Lemcke … The Rock went 0-3 on the power play, while the Voodoos were 1-3 with the man advantage … Official attendance at the Powassan Sportsplex was 110 … Wednesday’s only other contest saw the Soo Eagles edge the Thunderbirds 2-1 in overtime in Sault Ste. Marie … The Rock had been scheduled to play the Rapids in French River Thursday night, but that contest has been postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Rock will conclude the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m. Fans are being reminded to bring scarves, toques, mittens and socks which will be collected, in conjunction with Soucie Salo Safety, in support of Living Space.