Voodoos end Rock streak

The streak is over. The target is off their backs and now the Timmins Rock can simply concentrate on winning hockey games.

Even though he was laying down on the ice, Powassan Voodoos forward Jackson Buffam managed to slip the puck past Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy, who had been knocked flat on his back moments earlier, and into the Timmins net during the second period of Sunday afternoon’s NOJHL contest at the McIntyre Arena. The goal gave the Voodoos a 3-1 lead in a game they would go on to win 4-3. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

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The streak is over. The target is off their backs and now the Timmins Rock can simply concentrate on winning hockey games.

For the first time since March 14 they have tasted defeat in regulation, thanks to the Powassan Voodoos 4-3 win at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon.

Earlier in the weekend, the Rock — now 10-1-1-0 on the season — had pushed their streak of accumulating points to 18-straight games, including seven in the COVID-19 abbreviated 2020-21 campaign, by skating to a 5-2 win over the Rapids in French River.

Despite Sunday afternoon’s setback, however, the Rock remain tied with the Voodoos (9-2-2-1) for top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings, and they have two games in hand on their East Division rivals.

And they remain the No. 4 ranked team in the country in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League Top 20 — a poll that has the previously unranked Hearst Lumberjacks at No. 14 and the Soo Thunderbirds ranked No. 18, up from honourable mention.

The Voodoos, who blew a 2-1 third-period lead and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Lumberjacks in overtime in Hearst Saturday, got on the scoreboard first Sunday afternoon, courtesy of Alexander Bradshaw’s fifth goal of the season just 1:16 into the contest.

Tyler Gilberds netted his fifth goal of the season, with just over five minutes remaining in the opening period, to tie things up and send the two teams to their dressing rooms for the first intermission deadlocked at 1-1.

Even though the Rock outshot the Voodoos 14-10 in the middle frame and in the words of coach and general manager Brandon Perry “outplayed” their opponents, it was Powassan that scored the period’s only two goals.

Rodion Tatarenko, who scored four goals during the Voodoos previous visit to the McIntyre Arena, netted the first of those two markers, his ninth tally of the campaign.

Then, just over two minutes later, Cobalt native Jackson Buffam added his second goal of the season to put the Voodoos up 3-1 after 40 minutes of play.

The Rock were able to rally with a pair of goals two-and-a-half minutes apart early in the third period to tie things up at 3-3.

Tyler Patterson notched his second goal of the season, a power-play marker, at the 5:59 mark.

Captain Tyler Schwindt then added his NOJHL-leading 13th goal of the season to bring a renewed sense of optimism to Rock fans.

That was dashed just over four minutes later, however, as Jacob McLellan scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his fifth tally of the season, to close out the scoring as the Voodoos wrapped up their 4-3 triumph.

Perry felt his squad deserved a better fate Sunday afternoon.

“It was just little mental mistakes,” he said.

“We dominated that team for the last 40 minutes. I thought our start was really slow, but we really pushed the pace and controlled the play, peppered that goalie (Alex Bugeja) the last 40 minutes.

“The second period was arguably our best period and we made two mistakes and we were down two (goals) after the second period.

“That’s just the way it goes. Sometimes you don’t get the bounces.”

The coach wasn’t really sure why his team got off to a slow start Sunday afternoon.

“With Powassan coming into town, we expected them to be fired up,” Perry said.

“The guys had been on an incredible run and I am super proud of them, super proud of the work they have been putting in. Now it is time to start a new run.”

For the most part, the coach was pleased with what he saw from his Rock Sunday afternoon.

“It was nice to see Patty (Patterson) get one from in the dirty area to start things rolling in the third,” Perry said.

“Obviously, Schwinny (Schwindt) was the one who stepped up and tied the game.

“Up and down the lineup, I thought everybody played well and contributed.”

The Rock lost forward Daniel Beaupre to an upper-body injury Sunday afternoon, but it isn’t known yet how long he might be out of the lineup.

Voodoos coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was pleased to see his team rewarded for their hard work Sunday afternoon.

“We are definitely happy with the win, especially after last night when we lost a barnburner after we were up against Hearst,” he said.

“That one kind of stung.

“This afternoon, we were up by a couple of goals in the third, but Timmins came back, so for us to pull it off shows the guys are getting together and getting closer to understanding what our expectations are as a hockey team.”

The Voodoos coach didn’t feel Sunday afternoon’s victory was any sweeter given it was the first regulation loss for the Rock.

“Any time you play a team that is strong, like Timmins or Hearst, if you can go on the road and get the two points, it always feels great,” Lafleur said.

“There was nothing sweeter about it. It was bound to happen eventually.

“Knowing this team, the next time we play them, they may take it to us like they did the last time they came to Powassan.

“We will see what happens.”

Lafleur was not surprised to learn his goalie was chosen first star of the contest.

“When we picked up Bugeja during the summer, we were told the bigger the game, the bigger the moment, the bigger he plays and that is exactly what has happened over the course of the last couple of games,” he said.

The Voodoos got goals from four different players Sunday afternoon and that balance has been one of the keys to their success so far this season.

“If you look at our stats, we don’t have two or three guys who are so far ahead in the scoring compared to everybody else,” Lafleur said.

“We have a team where we have to manufacture our opportunities and our goals from everywhere across our forward lines.

“We just have to keep doing that. The one good thing about it is if some guys aren’t going one night, other guys will pick up the slack.”

The Voodoos also got solid contributions from all of their blue-liners.

“That is something we have been working on,” Lafleur said.

“I have always said the blue-line is the engine to the car and we have really been working hard in terms of making our D understand when we don’t see them on the ice, it is a good thing, as well.

“Case in point this afternoon, guys like Alex Little and Ryan O’Dell were absolutely terrific for us.”

Bugeja, who turned aside 35 of the 38 shots the Rock directed his way, earned his seventh victory of the season.

Rock goalie Gavin McCarthy, who blocked 20 of the 24 shots he faced, was tagged with the loss.

ROCK 5 RAPIDS 2

FRENCH RIVER — Schwindt’s hat-trick helped propel the Rock to a 5-2 win over the Rapids at the Noelville Community Centre Friday night.

His power-play marker, his 10th goal of the season, gave the Rock a 1-0 lead at the 12:48 mark of the opening period.

The Rapids got back on even terms less than three minutes later, however, as Spencer Borg netted his third goal of the campaign.

Schwindt’s second goal of the night and 11th of the season restored the Rock’s one-goal advantage prior to the end of the frame.

Then, just shy of the midway point in the second period, Gilberds struck for what would prove to be the game-winning goal, his fourth tally of the season to make it a 3-1 hockey game.

Just over a minute later, Christopher Engelbert scored his fifth goal of the season, an unassisted effort, to put the Rock up 4-1.

The Rock took that three-goal advantage into the third period, but Levi Siau gave Rapids fans a little hope when he picked up a power-play marker, his third goal of the campaign, at the 13:41 mark.

Schwindt dashed those hopes, however, when he completed his hat-trick by scoring his 12th goal of the season, with just 1:01 remaining on the clock to make the final score 5-2 in favour of the Rock.

Perry said, “Friday night certainly wasn’t our best effort. Don’t get me wrong, we were happy with the result, but it certainly wasn’t our cleanest game.

“Gavin McCarthy was great and I think he was the difference. We scored some goals. We are a talented team and we are going to score.

“It was good to get the result and keep the streak going, but you could see it building the last three games, the two against Kirkland Lake and the French River game, we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”

McCarthy turned aside 29 of the 31 shots he faced to earn his eighth-straight win to start the season.

Rapids netminder Cole Sheffield, who stopped 34 of the 39 shots the Rock directed his way, was tagged with the loss.

NOJHL NOTES — The Daily Press three stars of Sunday afternoon’s contest were Bugeja, Rock forward Riley Brousseau (two assists) and McLellan, while Schwindt, Sheffield and Engelbert were honoured Friday night … Both the Rock and the Voodoos went 1-4 on the power play Sunday afternoon, while the Rock and the Rapids were 1-3 with the man advantage Friday night… Official attendance at the McIntyre Arena Sunday afternoon was 645 … Sunday’s only other contest saw the Soo Thunderbirds blank the Cubs 1-0 in Greater Sudbury … The Rock will return to action on Friday night when they host the Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.

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