Bishop itching to practice

TIMMINS – It remains to be seen when Brendan Bishop will set up shop in the Timmins Rock crease, but the puck stopper is confident it will be sooner rather than later.

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
Sunday, August 20, 2017 7:09:06 EDT PM

TIMMINS – It remains to be seen when Brendan Bishop will set up shop in the Timmins Rock crease, but the puck stopper is confident it will be sooner rather than later.

“Yesterday (Friday) was the four-week mark since I had the surgery and I was told it would take six to eight weeks to heal,” he said, describing the timeline for his recovery from surgery to repair an upper-body injury.

“Ever since about two weeks after the surgery, however, they had said I am ahead of schedule. So, I am thinking maybe next week, the middle to late in the week, I should be able to hop into the net.”

Given Bishop does not have a licence to practice medicine, the Rock will ensure, of course, he is cleared by a professional before they let his teammates start firing pucks in his direction.

The 1997-birth-year Charlotte, N.C., native — who was born in Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld. — originally didn’t think his injury was all that serious.

“During the summer, while I was training, I just kind of hit my hand weird,” Bishop said.

“I left it for a week, because I just thought it was a bruise, and we went on a family fishing trip to Newfoundland. The bones ended up buckling on top of each other. That’s how I knew maybe there was a problem.”

Ticketed to be the Rock’s No. 1A option in net this season, it has been a bit frustrating for Bishop to watch creasemate Eric Jackson and the other three goalies — Jordan Yaremchuk, Dante Garito and Jimmy Carleton — in the Rock training camp get all of the reps.

“It has been a little tough,” he admitted.

“You work all summer to get ready for the start of camp and then you suffer kind of an unlucky injury.

“I am sure it will all feel better when I get on the ice, hopefully this week.”

Bishop is confident once he is cleared to see action it won’t take him long to get back in game shape.

“I think it will take about maybe 20 minutes,” he said.

With the game plan calling for Bishop to be the Rock’s 1A puck stopper and Jackson the 1B, the duo have developed a friendship in camp.

“We have been getting along really well,” Bishop said.

“His billet wasn’t ready at the start of this week and we actually got to live together for the past week. It gave us a chance to discuss our plans for the year and what we have to do to make this team successful.

“There are times when you can have a goalie partner you might not get along with, where you want to see him on the bench and you in the net, but it is the exact opposite with me and E.J.

“I don’t think I have ever had a goalie partner who I have gotten along as well as I have with him. We have discussed the fact that if I am on the bench because he is playing well, that’s awesome, and if he is on the bench because I am playing well, it is the same thing.

“We just want to see the team win. Coach (Corey) Beer has told us from the start, this team’s goal is to win an RBC Cup. You are not going to win with just one goalie. You saw what happened to the (Pittsburgh) Penguins in the playoffs. They needed two goalies to get the job done and I think it is going to be a similar situation with our team. We will ride who is hot and whoever can get us two points at the end of the day.”

Indeed, the Rock franchise has endured three-straight years of goalie injuries, dating back to its final season as the Abitibi Eskimos in Iroquois Falls.

The five goalies currently in training camp have been working with Rock goaltending coach Marc Bisson.

“He has been trying to keep us sharp and we are really lucky to have him,” Bishop said.

“I don’t think there are a lot of teams in the league who have a goalie coach like coach Beezer. He provides another set of eyes on our game.”

While he has not been able to face any shots yet, Bishop has been out on the ice in his full equipment to work on positioning, technique and conditioning.

Like former Rock goalie Matthew Nixon, Bishop — who spent the past two years with the Atlanta Knights, of the USPHL — is sporting a goalie mask adorned with a large team logo, and the No. 20 he will wear this season in honour of his late brother, Steven Russell.

“I was kind of browsing the internet, trying to find some quick thing I could put on my mask, because I didn’t have time to get it painted, and I found a website that gets the designs going,” he said.

“I drew up a template and they made it all fancy. That was about it. Nothing too complicated.”

Jackson, of the other hand, prefers a plain, simple look and has no plans to match the creativity of his creasemate’s mask.

“I think his mask looks really, really good,” he said.

“The logo on top actually looks amazing, but I don’t think I will get my mask done. I like things plain and I like things simple. I like the simplicity of my white mask. I think it will look good with my Timmins Rock jersey.

Like most goalies, Jackson is a little superstitious — especially on game day.

“I think I have gotten into the habit of always putting one pad on before the other,” he said.

“It is just one of those little things when I am getting ready for a game to get focused on the task at hand.”

Bishop isn’t necessarily superstitious, but he does have a few pre-game routines he likes to follow.

“Before games, I like to stay relaxed and I will listen to more country or folkie music,” he said.

“I find it keeps me calm and mellow. When I am on the ice, I do the same little skate to the corner every time and the same little tap on my pads.”

Jackson is pleased with the way his training camp has been going, so far.

“I love the town and I really love the environment here at the rink,” he said.

“We definitely have some good shooters on this team, but I am feeling very comfortable watching the puck all the way into my catching glove or my blocker. I am feeling very confident heading into our first two exhibition games.”

Jackson, a 1998-birth-year puck stopper from Toronto, is excited about the chance to play behind the talented blue-line corps the Rock have been able to assemble this off season.

“We have a lot of fast, puck-moving defencemen,” he said.

“We also seem to have some nice size in the unit, which also helps when it comes to clearing bodies away from the puck and the front of the net. It really allows me to see the puck better and as long as I can see the puck, I am confident I will make the save.”

Jackson is also confident he and Bishop will work well together this season.

“Brendan is a great guy,” he said.

“He is absolutely amazing. He is always very positive, very happy, a joy to be around.

“I love talking to him and being around him. I think I am going to learn a lot from him this season.”

When it comes to ensuring he is at the top of his game, there a few things Jackson has been focusing on in training camp.

“I want to make sure my gloves are going well, my movements are going well and I am able to control the puck,” he said.

“I want to make sure I don’t feel like I am fighting the puck or anything like that. It is important for me to be able to feel the puck with my stick, to make the pass outside of the defensive zone.

Yaremchuk, who will likely play for the GNML’s Timmins Majors if he does not make the Rock roster, has also looked sharp in camp.

“I think all three us can definitely learn a few things from each other,” Jackson said.

“I think he has the ability to really push us.”

Garito and Carleton both spent time with the Rock during the 2016-17 NOJHL campaign as affiliate players.

They would appear to be long shots to make the roster, but they have not looked out of place to this point in camp.