The steady goaltending provided by Eric Jackson has been one of the bright spots for the Timmins Rock early in the 2017-18 NOJHL campaign. With a 2.17 mark, Jackson has posted the sixth-best goals against average in the league this season and he has also registered a respectable .904 saves percentage. Only five teams have allowed fewer goals than the Rock so far this season. After taking on the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake Friday night, the Rock will welcome the French River Rapids to the McIntyre Arena Saturday night. Game time is set for 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock’s struggling offence has received another boost with the acquisition of forward Austin Petrie from the Fort Frances Lakers, of the SIJHL, in exchange for a player development fee.
Petrie, a 1997-birth-year left-hand shooting native of St. Louis, Mo., who stands 5-9 and weighs in at 167 pounds, arrived in Timmins on Wednesday and practised with his new teammates.
“After about an 11- or 12-hour trek from Fort Frances, he got in a couple of hours before practice and we got him in there for the skate,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“He looks good and he moved around pretty well out there. He certainly has some offensive flair, which is a welcome sight.
“He is a good kid, very easy to talk to and he is well travelled, so he understands the whole junior aspect of things.
“He is going to be a good addition for us.”
As one of eight 1997-birth-year players on the Lakers roster, Petrie (2, 0-0-0, 4) was a victim of a numbers game this season.
In 2016-17, Petrie spent time with both the Lakers (15, 3-7-10, 23) and the Richmond Generals (18, 5-11-16, 21), of the USPHL.
Petrie (34, 19-17-36, 69) had perhaps his best offensive season playing for the Generals as an 18 year old in 2015-16.
During his first couple of games in the Rock lineup — Friday night against the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake and back home against the NOJHL-leading French River Rapids on Saturday night — Petrie will likely see action with a variety of different linemates.
“We are not shy about rotating our lines, or changing bodies in and out,” Beer said.
“I don’t think we have had the same line combinations for two games in a row.
“Austin is certainly going to be part of that mix now and hopefully we can support him with some offensive guys he can do some damage with out there.
“There will be some different looks and hopefully, we can give him some power-play time.
“He is not a guy coming out of midget hockey who is going to be freightened by the life of Junior ‘A’ hockey. He should be able to adapt to our system pretty well here. He is a very mature young man.”
It will be interesting to see if Petrie will have the same kind of impact on the Rock attack as Connor Hoffmann (2, 2-1-3, 0), who scored a pair of goals — including the game-winner — as the Rock defeated the Cochrane Crunch 7-5 back on Sept. 19.
“It was just one of those things where if you are in the right spot at the right time, the puck finds you and you find the back of the net,” Beer said.
“We are not looking for that kind of massive production from Austin. We are just looking for him to come in and compete, do all the right things from the defensive zone on out.
“He certainly has the good offensive tools that will put him in the right spots and hopefully we will get some production from him that way. He is going to be part of a scoring by-committee approach and hopefully, it will come sooner rather than later.”
Petrie has demonstrated in the past the ability to be either a finisher or a set-up man.
“We are hoping to see a combination of both, to tell you the truth,” Beer said.
“He has a very good, accurate shot and he likes to shoot the puck. Sometimes with guys who have a shoot-first mentality, their assists are collected from rebounds.
“We are kind of in need of a guy who can shoot the puck here. We have a lot of set-up men, a lot of guys who want to create that way. We really do need somebody who can shoot the puck. I don’t think he is shy that way. Does he have the ability to set guys up? Absolutely.”
It is not like the Rock offence didn’t have any weapons before the arrival of Hoffmann and Petrie.
Returning veterans Wayne Mathieu (6, 0-2-2, 10), Alexandre Brisson (6, 2-2-4, 4) and Stewart Parnell (6, 2-1-3, 6) proved last season and during the playoffs they have the ability to put the puck in the net.
In addition, newcomers Derek Seguin (6, 2-2-4, 6), C. J. Bradburn (4, 1-0-1, 2), Donny Schultz (5, 1-0-1, 0), Connor Losen (5, 0-1-1, 0) and Halen Cordoni (4, 0-0-0, 0) demonstrated an ability to create offence in the leagues they came from.
The Rock have scored just 11 goals in their first six games of the 2017-18 NOJHL campaign and they have been shut out three times in their past four games, but Beer is confident his team will work its way out of the funk.
“We have a lot of speed and we have a lot of skill,” he said.
“We have a lot of veteran guys on our roster who have proven they can score in the past, as well as players who are new to the team and the program who have scored elsewhere in the past.
“We just need more consistency game-in and game-out and maybe a little bit more urgency around the net at times.”
Defensively, only five teams have allowed fewer goals than the Rock this season — thanks in part to the goaltending of Eric Jackson (277:00, 2-2-0-0, 0, 2.17, .904).
Brendan Bishop (80:00, 0-2-0-0, 6.00, .814), who entered the season as the Rock’s No. 1A netminder, has struggled to find his game after giving up three goals on eight shots and getting pulled after the first period of the season opener against the Rapids.
The Rock will get their first look at the 2017-18 Gold Miners (2-3-1-0) Friday night in Kirkland Lake.
“They remind me a bit of the Cochrane Crunch,” Beer said.
“A lot of their guys are thinking offence before they even get the puck. They are very dangerous that way.
“They have a couple of guys there like Gabriel Rheault and Tyler Fyfe who can put the puck in the back of the net. We have to be very cognisant of where they are when they are on the ice and how they generate their systems.
“They have a very good forechecking team. It should be another good test for our guys. We are going to have to play our best game.
“We have a good game plan set out and we will look to execute it.
Up front, the Gold Miners have scored six more goals than the Rock, with the bulk of their offence coming from Rheault (6, 2-5-7, 8), Zach Bannister (6, 3-3-6, 7), Declan Carter (6, 3-3-6, 6), Fyfe (6, 3-1-4, 4), William Mizuik (6, 2-2-4, 2), Joe Whittet (6, 1-3-4, 2), Marshal Nikitin (6, 0-3-3, 4) and Max Cavallini (6, 2-0-2, 2).
Defensively, the Gold Miners have allowed six more goals than the Rock.
No. 1 netminder Ryan Winter (287:00, 2-2-1-0, 1, 2.72, .912) has given Kirkland Lake a chance to win most nights, but rookie Ty Sparling (60:00, 0-1-0-0, 0, 7.00, .800) struggled in his lone start.
Jesse Hodgson (21:00, 0-0-0-0, 8.72, .667) was traded to the Schomberg Cougars, of the PJHL, on Tuesday, and the team has signed Cade McEwen, who spent the 2016-17 season with Hermantown High School, in the USHS.
After dropping a 3-1 decision to the Rapids during their home opener back on Sept. 8, Beer felt his squad had taken French River too lightly.
Since that time, however, the Rapids have gone 4-1-1-0 and with 11 points, they now sit atop the standings in the 12-team league.
“Any time you add a good hockey man like (director of hockey operations) Sherry Bassin and a coach like Ken Strong to a program, it is going to give you life and respectability,” Beer said.
“They have some real high-end players there with guys like Jordan Picard (7, 3-8-11, 8), who is a Timmins boy, and Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (7, 7-8-15, 6). I thought Picard stood out right from the drop of the puck in Game 1.
“They have a team that is playing with a lot of pace and a lot of structure. They certainly don’t make it easy for you in their end and they have had great goaltending, too.
“It is one of those things where if we take away five minutes of that game, it is kind of a 1-1 game. I felt we were right there with them all night, but that said, you have to be able to put pucks in the back of the net and they did that better than us that night.
“We are very eager to get back at them and see where our team is at. Any time you can play a top-ranked team in your league, it is a new opportunity for our guys to compete and battle.
“We should be ready for the task.”
In addition to Picard and Trudeau-Paquet, the Rapids offence has gotten a big boost this season from Jacob Uridil (7, 2-3-5, 18), Jacob Romano (7, 4-0-4, 6), Christian Gaudreau (7, 1-3-4, 2), Levi Siau (7, 3-0-3, 4) and Alex Paul (7, 2-1-3, 0).
In goal, Spencer Eschyshcyn (179:00, 2-0-1-0, 0, 2.68, .919), who stopped 25 of 26 shots the Rock fired in his direction in the opener, has been outstanding and back-ups Jean-Marc Brisson (190:00, 2-1-0-0, 1, 2.85, .911) and Andrew Rocha (60:00, 1-0-0-0, 0, 2.00, .947) have been very good.
While the Rock will be playing their second game in two nights, Saturday night’s contest will be the third game in three nights for the Rapids who began their trek with a game against the Crunch in Cochrane Thursday night and then took on the Lumberjacks in Hearst on Friday night.
Heading into the weekend, the Rock are without the services of defenceman Will Caston (upper-body injury) and Bradburn (lower-body injury).
“Will Caston will resume skating (but won’t play) this weekend, so that is good news,” Beer said.
“We will get him back in the mix hopefully soon. Bradburn is a bit longer term. It could be a month or so before we see him back in game action. There was a little bit of a hiccup there with his MRI.
“We certainly miss those two guys in our lineup right now.”
NOJHL NOTES — The Eastlink TV 3 Stars of the Week are Picard, Bannister and Trudeau-Paquet … The Gold Miners have also traded forwards Matthew Reynolds (1, 0-0-0, 0) and Dionne Demke (1, 0-0-0, 0) to the Pelham Panthers, of the GOJHL … The Rapids have traded forward Austin Hickner to the Minnesota Iron Rangers, of the SIJHL … The Hearst Lumberjacks have traded forward/defenceman Blake Holowatty to the Summerland Steam, of the KIJHL … The Espanola Express have traded forward Brennan Revell (2, 0-0-0, 0) to the Gananoque Islanders, of the PJHL, and acquired forward Josh Decoffe (5, 0-0-0, 2) from the High River Flyers, of the HJHL … The Elliot Lake Wildcats have traded forward Curtis Rawn to the Stouffville Spirit, of the OJHL … The Blind River Beavers have re-acquired forward Anthony Bastianello (6, 0-0-0, 0) from the Trenton Golden Hawks, of the OJHL, and acquired forward Eric Leblanc from the North York Rangers, of the OJHL, and defenceman Christopher Carr-Ansah (4, 0-0-0, 2) from the Brockville Braves, of the CCHL. They have also traded defenceman Jeremy Ross (1, 0-0-0, 0) to Buffalo Regals, of the GOJHL.