Buzzer signals end of Junior careers

Timmins Rock Captain Derek Seguin takes a moment to reflect on his past four years with the NOJHL club following the complete on Tuesday night’s contest at the McIntyre Arena. Seguin scored a goal and added an assist in the final game of his Junior ‘A’ career, a 3-0 victory over the Cochrane Crunch. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The final buzzer sounded on the Junior ‘A’ careers of five members of the Timmins Rock at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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Combined, Captain Derek Seguin (160, 95-87-182, 153), Josh Dickson (129, 53-67-120, 122), Riley Robitaille (162, 25-64-89, 159), Tyler Masternak (117, 6,686:00, 74-31-1, 18, 2.22, .915) and Graeme McCrory (10, 3-5-8, 2) represent 578 games of NOJHL experience — although technically Robitaille (seven games) and Masternak (three games began their careers with other organizations.

So, it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that emotions were running pretty high during the final game of the Rock’s 2020-21 regular-season campaign at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night.

That is especially true for Seguin and Robitaille, whose connection dates all the way back to Novice hockey.

Seguin said, “Considering I thought I was losing Robie a couple of years ago, it has been a pretty sweet feeling to have him along for the past couple of years.

“It is not every day you have somebody you have been playing with since you were a kid, the chemistry you build, the communication we have on the bench when somebody is having a bad shift, the way we kind of pump each other up is next to none.

“I love this guy and obviously we are going to remain friends long after this. This is just a small step in our friendship.”

Robitaille added, “Segsy nailed it. We played together in our minor hockey days and now to see it come full circle, playing our last game together with the Rock is great to see.

“It is a friendship that is going to last a lifetime. He is a phone call away, always answering me.

“I feel so honoured to have played in the Derek Seguin era.”

Timmins Rock teammates Derek Seguin, left, and Riley Robitaille, who have played against or with each other since their days in Novice hockey, take a final look at the clock above the ice surface at the McIntyre Arena following the final game of their Junior ‘A’ hockey careers Tuesday night. Each player picked up a pair of points, as the Rock defeated the Cochrane Crunch 3-0. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Early on, Robitaille and Seguin played against each other, but since Peewee ‘AAA’ they have been teammates, for the most part, and he has found that experience much more pleasant.

Robitaille said, “I can barely keep up with him on his line. I can just imagine trying to play against him. He is a tough guy to play against.”

While this year’s Rock graduates have known since the dates of the 10-game series against the Cochrane Crunch were announced when their final Junior ‘A’ contest would be played, that was not the case for last year’s graduates — Stewart Parnell, Karter Renouf, David Larouche, Josh Anderson and Quinn Schneidmiller.

Seguin said, “Most years, you don’t know when your last game is going to be because you are competing to keep your season going.

“Last year, we didn’t know it (Game 1 of a best-of-seven playoff series) was going to be our last game, so this is something special. We were up late last night, talking to each other, talking about how we feel and what is going through our minds.

“This was a really nice way to end things, knowing. I was all smiles all game. They put us back together, me, Dicksy, Robes and they let us play the last two minutes.

“We took a time out so we could just sit there and enjoy the moment. It is a memory that is going to live on forever in my mind.”

Is rare for any Junior ‘A’ squad to win its final contest unless it goes all the way and wins a national championship.

Due to the craziness of COVID-19, however, the Rock managed to accomplish that feat in back-to-back years — although that is cold comfort to a team built to bring home a title.

Seguin said, “Last year wasn’t exactly the most special, but year this year had some sentimental value.

“Last year was pretty much a slap in the face. Ever since we came to this program we had (former head coach Corey Beer) Beersy as a coach and he preached winning championships.

“He won a national championship (as an assistant coach with the Cobourg Cougars in 2017) and he coached us to win.”

Beer stepped down as coach of the Rock prior to the start of the series against the Crunch in order to take a job with Okanagan Hockey Ontario.

Seguin noted the Rock’s series victory was dedicated to their former coach.

He said, “Everything he taught us is engrained in our minds. Even without him here, with the staff of (assistant coaches Marc Bissoon) Beezer, (James Daschuk) Dazz and Sean (Lee), myself, Robie and Dicksy, we know the playbook in and out, it was like he was here.”

Despite the loss of so much experience, Robitaille feels the team has a solid core around which to build a championship-caliber team in 2021-22.

He said, “You look down the lineup and there are key guys who are going to step up next year and replace the guys who won’t be here.

“Like Segsy said, the program is engrained in all our heads and it is just a matter of passing it along to the new guys.

“There is no doubt in my mind special things are going to continue to come. You look at Timmins, you look at the fan base, the way the organization treats us, how we bond as a family and in my opinion there is no better place to play Junior ‘A’ hockey.

“I am excited to see what the future holds for the Rock and they best believe I will be keeping a close eye on things.”

Seguin plans to attend Nipissing University in the fall and play for the Lakers, just like another one of the franchise’s prolific scorers, Erik Robichaud did when his Junior ‘A’ career came to an end.

Meanwhile, Robitaille is considering joining Parnell and continuing his hockey career in Europe next season.

Timmins Rock forward Josh Dickson gets a hug as he and his teammates make their way past the team bench following Tuesday night’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. The 3-0 Rock victory over the Cochrane Crunch was the final game of the Junior ‘A’ careers of Dickson and four of his teammates. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

While Seguin and Robitaille are both local products the third member of the line, Dickson, made the move from Port Perry, Ont., to spend the past three seasons in a Rock uniform.

He said, “I have got to thank everybody, all the players, management, just everybody.

“This is a professional organization and I am going to miss it from the bottom of my heart.”

Dickson is well known for his animated goal celebrations, but his game has grown over the past three campaigns.

He said, “I have become quite the playmaker, knowing how good of a scorer Derek Seguin is. I have been trying to get him the puck as much as I can.

“There is nothing better than making a nice play and getting rewarded with an assist.”

Timmins Rock goalie Tyler Masternak and forward Graeme McCrory take a quiet moment to reflect upon the end of their Junior ‘A’ careers following the conclusion of Tuesday’s NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena. While Masternak spent the past four years with the Rock, McCrory was added to the roster just prior the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline in February. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

Meanwhile, Masternak certainly concluded his final Junior ‘A’ season in style, leading the NOJHL in most important goaltending categories — wins (13), shutouts (2) and goals against average (1.46).

And he finished second in save percentage (.935), just behind Soo Thunderbirds puck stopper Alex Bugeja (.936), and second in minutes played (906:00), slightly behind Crunch goalie Michael Nickolau (914:00).

He said, “I am kind of at a loss for words right now. I just want to thank the entire organization, all my teammates, all the fans who support us every night and the City of Timmins.

“I am so proud of this team and everything we have done. It has been an unreal four years.”

Masternak only had to face 10 shots Tuesday night while recording his NOJHL-record 18th shutout in his final Junior ‘A’ contest, but keeping the distractions out of his mind was at times challenging.

He said, “Those ones when you are not getting a lot of action, you kind of have to rely on your teammates to play good defence around you, but everything went well tonight.”

There have obviously been many highlights for the Oshawa native, but one still clearly sticks out in his mind.

Masternak said, “Definitely beating Powassan (his former) team in overtime in Game 6 that first year, when Gibby (Rock forward Tyler Gilberds) got that (series clinching) winner.

“They had a way better team on paper than us that year, but everyone worked their butts off.”

Unlike his fellow graduates, McCrory’s time in a Rock uniform was relatively short, as acquired from the OJHL’s Georgetown Raiders just prior to the Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline in February.

He said, “I wish I would have come up at the start of the season, but I was trying to be optimistic about the OJHL.

“Now that I look back it, however, I wish I would have been with the guys the whole time.

“It was easy to play with these guys, especially when we were communicating on the ice. I was really able to mesh with the guys right when I got here, which made it super easy.”

One thing McCrory didn’t get to experience during his brief time in Timmins was playing in front of up to 1,500 fans in the McIntyre Arena.

He said, “That would have been an experience for sure. I have heard lots of stories about it.”

McCrory would not hesitate to advise players to join the Rock organization.

He said, “Especially young guys, it would be good for them to come here and have an experience away from home.”

Bisson agreed there was a great deal of emotion associated with Tuesday night’s contest.

“I didn’t expect to be this emotional but they are so important to this team,” he said.