Corey Beer has parlayed back-to-back assistant coaching gigs with Canada East at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge into a new head coaching assignment.
Relax Rock fans, the 35-year-old Oshawa native will still be behind the bench when Timmins opens the second half of its NOJHL schedule on the road this weekend.
In addition to guiding the maroon, gold and white through a third-straight campaign, however, he will also be at the helm of Team East at the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game to be played at the Dave Andreychuk Arena in Hamilton on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
The Team West bench will be run by Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL) coach Brian Maloney.
Last month, Beer was part of a Canada East squad that captured silver at the 2019 World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C.
Rock captain Derek Seguin played in the game — organized in conjunction with NHL Central Scouting — last season.
Prior to joining the Rock at the start of the 2017-18 NOJHL campaign, Beer had served as an assistant coach with the RBC Cup-winning Cobourg Cougars (OJHL).
Under Beer’s guidance, the Rock have compiled a 78-56-7-4 regular season record — including an impressive 26-5-1-1 mark in 2019-20 — and they have gone 7-7 in the playoffs.
As one might expect, the ever effervescent Beer was pumped upon learning of his selection prior to Christmas.
“It is pretty exciting,” he said.
“Obviously, it is a very high-profile game and it has been a bit of a whirlwind here the last month and a half with the Canada East stuff and our team here is having a phenomenal season, so it has been great so far.”
The honour of being selected to coach Team East was not something Beer had been anticipating.
“It is not something that is application based, it is something that is more based on references and how your team is doing, my track record sort of thing,” he said.
“Brent Ladds, the president of the CJHL, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in doing it.
“Obviously, I was more than thrilled to accept the position. It was kind of kept under wraps for the past couple of weeks. I knew before Christmas.”
Ladds said: “We congratulate both Corey and Brian on being named the head coaches for the CJHL Prospects Game. Both gentlemen are highly regarded, have achieved tremendous success in their coaching careers and are well deserving of this opportunity.”
While he is the one who has been selected for the honour, Beer knows he wouldn’t be behind the bench without a lot of support along the way.
“There have been a lot of good people standing beside me at certain times who have helped me out and put in a good word for me,” he said.
“I really owe a lot to the people I have surrounded myself with over the years, whether it has been up here, down south, or at these tournaments.
“It has been pretty special to be around such a good group of people.”
Further information on the CJHL Prospects Game, including naming the remaining members of the coaching staffs, on-ice officials, broadcasters and ticket information for will be announced in the coming days.
“NHL Central Scouting basically handles all the selection of the players,” Beer said.
“There is nothing from the coaches, or anyone like that, that dictates whether certain players are on the team.
“I believe it is done in conjunction with the various league commissioners. They might give recommendations based on what they have seen, as well.”
The same goes for the selection of the remainder of the coaching staffs for the two squads.
“In terms of the assistant coaches, they are assigned a bit closer to the actual game date,” Beer said.
“Typically, it is guys who have availability in their schedules from around that area. I would think it will be guys who are Ottawa- or southern Ontario-based.”
While there are certain advantages in terms of working with people you are familiar with, Beer sees the benefits of being able to expand his network, as well.
“For everyone involved, you kind of look to that interaction whether it is someone you might know of, or have coached against, it is now a chance to sit there and pick their brain,” he said.
“It is funny, but in coaching everything is borrowed or taken from other clubs. Nobody has been the inventor of a one-two-two forecheck. It has been passed down over time.
“Sitting down with other coaches, you learn this is a different way of adjusting your neutral zone forecheck, or your transition, whatever. They might way to pick your brain on special teams stuff.
“That is the thing about these tournaments. You get to expand your networking, work with people you might know, or hold in high regard.
“That goes for the players, as well.”
Heading into the game, Beer has a good handle on what will be expected of him.
“For myself, it is a matter of show up, install a bit of system stuff and make sure the guys play a good brand of hockey,” he said.
“It is a little bit of a mini-All-Star game sort of thing.”
With the game being played four days after the CJHL’s trade deadline, Beer will not have to worry about the need to resist the urge to pack three or four of the players in his luggage following the conclusion of the event.
“With a record right now of 26-5-1-1, there is not too much we would want to change with our squad,” he said.
Beer and the Rock will head out on a two-game road trip to begin the second half of their 2019-20 NOJHL campaign, with stops in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., to play the Eagles Saturday night and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to play the Thunderbirds Sunday afternoon.
Two of the three Rock players — forwards David Laroche (17, 8-10-18, 4) and Jonah Devereux (27, 6-10-16 , 20) — who had been out of the lineup with upper-body injuries prior to the Christmas break appear the be close to returning to action.
“It seems Laroche is clear of symptoms, so he should be back to full health,” Beer said.
“We will have a good sense of that tonight (Thursday) when he skates, but he worked out Wednesday night and had no issues, which is great.
“Devereux I think is going to be good. He got in the one game there before the break, but we just kind of held him off the ice for that last game as a precaution, but it seems like everything is back to normal for him.”
The news is not quite as good when it comes to the third injured Rock player, former Kirkland Lake Gold Miners captain Quinn Schneidmiller (13, 1-9-10, 20).
The 1999-birth-year blue-liner, who had been out with an upper-body injury, went down again in his first game in a Rock uniform, Dec. 6 against the Powassan Voodoos at the McIntyre Arena.
“Quinn is going to be long term,” Beer said.
“He is still getting evaluated for that shoulder of his. He is going to be out for a while.”
Given his squad’s record and its No. 8 ranking on the CJHL’s Top 20 list, Beer does not anticipate too much activity prior to the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“With the spot Quinn is in, maybe we might want to look at bringing in another defenceman, just because he could be out long term,” he said.
“So, we could do some tinkering. See what’s out there. But if nothing happens, we love our roster.
“We are in a great spot, but if there is a veteran guy or two who could come in here and give us a little bit more offence, or stability, whatever it is, I think (Rock general manager) Kevin (Peever) will explore that, if he can.
“We will see what shakes out of it, but if you look at how our team is constructed right now, we have a lot of good players who are performing at a high level.”
NOJHL NOTES — After opening the 2019-20 campaign with a home-heavy schedule, the Rock will play eight of their 11 games in January on the road … The next home game for the Rock will be on Thursday, Jan. 9, when they host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.