HEARST - The Timmins Rock have now played 120 minutes and 37 seconds without scoring a goal.
Artem Bortovskiy stopped all 25 shots the Rock fired his way Friday night at the Claude Larose Arena to backstop the Lumberjacks to a 5-0 victory over the visitors.
It marked the second-straight game the Rock have failed to score a goal following Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Soo Thunderbirds.
Coach Corey Beer was at a loss for words after addressing his troops following the contest and delegated the task of speaking with the media to assistant coach Marc Bisson.
“We squandered our chances and missed the net when we did have chances tonight,” Bisson said.
“We did not make the most of our opportunities when we did get them.
“It all comes back to having too many passengers. We had half a lineup that was going and buying into the system and wanted to win, while the other half, unfortunately, were just passengers.”
With the difficulty the Rock have been having putting the puck in the net to start the season, once they fell behind by a goal — and then two goals — their confidence level quickly evaporated.
“It has been a few games now that we have not been able to find the back of the net,” Bisson said.
“In our first game, against French River, we were only able to score one goal, so naturally I think some players have begun to squeeze their sticks a little too tight.
“They have been over-thinking things and once that happens, the game just doesn’t come naturally to you like it should when you are full of confidence.”
Eric Jackson was outstanding in goal for the Rock during the first three games of the season, but the coaching staff opted to make the switch back to Brendan Bishop for Friday night’s contest.
“Bishop played in the home opener and gave up a few goals he would like to have back,” said Bisson, who looks after the Rock netminders.
“Then, E.J. came in and played eight amazing periods. Our thinking was let’s get Bishop back in there on the road without the pressure of a home crowd.
“We wanted to get him going because we want to have the two best goalies in the league.”
In addition, Bishop came up with a number of unbelievable saves during the Rock’s 4-2 exhibition victory in Hearst.
The Rock had seven power-play opportunities Friday night, but they were unable to convert on any of them and you could argue the three best scoring opportunities during that time frame came from players wearing black uniforms.
“Our power play is definitely something we have not worked on enough,” Bisson said.
“We will probably be making some changes and putting some different personnel in different places. We did try a few different combinations tonight, but not with any success.”
Bortovskiy got all the offensive support he would need when defenceman Colin Boudreau scored a power-play goal, his first of the season, at the 8:44 mark of the opening period.
The Lumberjacks doubled their lead to 2-0 before the end of the opening frame, as Samuel Bourdages scored his first goal of the season with 1:36 remaining before the first intermission.
Defenceman Alec Johnson’s first goal in a Lumberjacks uniform at the 1:24 mark of the second period put the home side up by three goals.
Max Griffioen then added insult to injury when he scored a pair of goals, his second and third of the season, three minutes apart in the third period to make the final 5-0.
Lumberjacks coach and general manager Marc Lafleur was pleased with his squad’s performance Friday night.
“We weren’t happy with our effort last weekend in Timmins,” he said.
“They really took the play to us and they beat us everywhere. We had a very hard week of practice. We want to make our players understand, there is a way to lose and a way not to lose and we wanted to come back with a strong effort, regardless of the outcome.
“We played solid in all three zones tonight and we played pretty solid on special teams, as well.”
Indeed, the Lumberjacks ability to kill off seven penalties was one of the keys to their success Friday night.
“What can you say about Artem Bortovskiy?” Lafleur said.
“It is tough to put somebody else in front of him and he was like that all of last year, as well. He made some big saves in big moments that really changed the outcome of this game.
“Anybody who watches our games knows Bradley Golant is our hardest worker game-in and game-out.
“And tonight, our 20-year-old defencemen, guys like Vasily Gogalev and Colin Boudreau, really had solid games on our back end.
“It was a great team effort.”
Lafleur summed up the difference between a 3-1 loss to the Rock in Timmins last weekend and Friday night’s 5-0 victory in one word.
“Compete,” he said.
“We won the one-on-one battles tonight. That was the key. We competed at their level.
“We got a couple of breaks here and there, but we did the little things, as well. We blocked a lot of shots, especially on the penalty kill.
“That enabled us to come out with the victory.”
The Lumberjacks got the jump on the Rock right from the opening puck drop.
“We sent a message we were here to play,” Lafleur said.
The Lumberjacks have allowed just three goals — one of which was scored into an empty net — in their first three regular season games and they have yet to yield a goal on home ice.
“We were a little worried about the offence, but it all starts with the compete level,” Lafleur said.
“Defensively, from the most skilled guy on our hockey team to our least skilled guy, we make our players accountable away from the puck.”
Bortovskiy stopped all 25 shots he faced to earn his second win and record his second shutout of the season for the Lumberjacks.
Bishop turned aside 30 of the 35 shots Hearst fired his way and was tagged with the loss.
NOJHL NOTES — The three stars of the game were Griffioen, Bortovskiy and Johnson ... The Rock did not dress forwards Donny Schultz and Connor Losen, both of whom were healthy scratches ... The Rock went 0-7 on the power-play, while the Lumberjacks were 1-3 with the man advantage ... Official attendance at the Claude Larose Arena was 804 ... Friday night’s other action saw the Crunch defeat the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners 4-2 in Cochrane, the Rapids edge the Rayside-Balfour Canadians 3-2 in French River, the Powassan Voodoos beat the Eagles 5-3 in Sault, Mich., the Blind River Beavers get past the Thunderbirds 4-3 in overtime in Sault Ste. Marie and the Elliot Lake Wildcats dump the Express 5-1 in Espanola ... The Rock will return to action on Tuesday when they host the Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Rock 0 Lumberjacks 5
1. Lumberjacks — Colin Boudreau 1 (Max Johnson, Wade Auger) PP 8:44
2. Lumberjacks — Samuel Bourdages 1 Vasily Gogolev, Spencer Silver) 18:24
3. Lumberjacks — Alec Johnson 1 Bradley Golant, Samuel Bourdages) 1:24
4. Lumberjacks — Max Griffioen 2 (Shadow Reuben, Alec Johnson) 3:39
5. Lumberjacks — Max Griffioen 3 (Shadow Reuben) 6:21
Goalies — Rock: Brendan Bishop (60:00, 30 of 35, loss); Lumberjacks: Artem Bortovskiy (60:00, 25 of 25, win).