Timmins finishes September with a pair of home victories and a 6-1-1 record
The Timmins Rock are off to a very solid start to their 2019-2020 NOJHL season.
After receiving a reality check last Wednesday night against the defending NOJHL champion Hearst Lumberjacks in their only regulation loss thus far, the Rock rebounded for a pair of home victories at the friendly confines of the McIntyre Arena last weekend over the Espanola Express and the Soo Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds game in particular was one where neither coach left the arena overly thrilled with their team. Veteran Soo coach John Parco was demonstratively livid at the officiating crew on multiple occasions, and Timmins coach Corey Beer called it a “very disappointing performance.”
“Unacceptable discipline to be quite honest,” Beer said after Sunday’s game. “Unfortunately, it’s going to cost some guys spots in the lineup moving forward here, they’re going to be healthy scratches. It’s just not acceptable the way the game turned that way.”
It will be interesting to see how Beer fills out his lineup card for the team’s next match on Saturday against the rival Lumberjacks. Veterans Stewart Parnell and Linden Spencer are both eligible to return after suspensions, and recent addition David Laroche looks like a good fit, leaving the team with an abundance of quality forwards. The team’s leading scorer, Josh Dickson, is nursing an upper-body injury, and did not play on Sunday.
Overall though, things are looking mostly positive after one month of play. The team is sitting in second place in the loaded East Division, and have a plus-18 goal differential. Sixteen different players have at least three points. Scoring is coming from everywhere throughout the lineup, which can make it tough to defend, particularly for teams with inexperienced defencemen.
The Rock are currently sitting fourth in the NOJHL on the power play with a 20 per cent success rate. They are tied for seventh in penalty killing at this point, which the team will need to improve upon.
The goaltending duo of veteran Tyler Masternak and rookie Vance Meyer has been very solid. Both have three wins to their credit, as well as a shutout each. Meyer picked up his first NOJHL shutout last Saturday in a 7-0 win over Espanola, making 18 saves in the process.
“It means a lot. It’s good to get the first one done, and hopefully I’ll get some more throughout the season, but it’s a great feeling going out there and getting that shutout,” Meyer said after the game. “I may not have had the most shots, but it’s still a good feeling.”
Meyer improved to 3-0-0 on the season, and currently leads all NOJHL goaltenders with a 1.30 goals against average.
Team captain Derek Seguin suited up for his 100th regular season NOJHL game against Espanola, and scored twice. He said it was a special evening for him.
“Obviously not a lot of players can say they’ve played 100 junior games in their hometown,” said Seguin. “Obviously I love it, that’s why I’ve stayed here for these last three years. I can’t say enough about the program, and how much they support me and how much respect they’ve shown me. They’re a class organization.”
Off-season addition Alec Brown was finally able to get back on the ice for both games last weekend after missing the first six games with an upper-body injury. Although primarily a defenceman, Brown took regular shifts on the wing, and notched a pair of assists in his Rock debut.
“It was exciting, just finally being out there after an injury. With the support from the boys, it was a lot of fun,” said Brown.
Along with Dickson, rookie defenceman Tarci Tibishkogihig, and forward Gage Tremblay are battling injuries. It is crucial in the NOJHL to have depth, as every team will battle injuries, illnesses, and suspensions throughout the season, and with the East Division as competitive as it is, teams cannot afford extended slumps without slipping down the standings.
It must also be noted how friendly the Rock’s schedule has been thus far, playing seven of eight games at home, and will in fact play 11 of their first 12 games at the raucous McIntyre Arena. The team is well aware of this luxury, and with road wins generally hard to come by in the NOJHL, it is crucial to pile up the points early on.
But make no mistake, this is a very good team, and quite possibly the deepest team since the franchise returned to Timmins.
“Thirteen out of a possible 16 points right now; I think we’re happy with that,” said Masternak. “We’ve still got work to do obviously. A couple of breakdowns here and there, if we can fix that, we could have 16 out of 16 points. So I think we’re confident where we’re at right now.”
The Rock are back on the ice for a Saturday night showdown against the Hearst Lumberjacks at 7 p.m. at the McIntyre Arena. They will also host the West Division leading Rayside-Balfour Canadians on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.