Compete level ramps up as Rock conclude main camp

Team White forward Harry Clark was denied on this penalty shot attempt by Team Black goalie Patrick Boivin during the first period of Friday night’s intersquad game at the Timmins Rock’s main camp at the Whitney Arena. Clark beat Boivin earlier in the frame, but it would not matter as Team Black went on to defeat Team White 4-3, completing a sweep of their two contests. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The competitive fires were clearly stoked during the final day of the Timmins Rock’s main camp at the Whitney Arena Friday night.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Team Black forward Liam Wells and Team White blue-liner Chase Longhurst-McIntyre dropped their gloves and exchanged a few punches in the third period of the camp’s second intersquad contest, once again with close to 100 fans in attendance.

The animosity between the players, who are both entering their third full seasons in Rock uniforms, appeared to stem back to something that happened in the second period, however, as Wells and Longhurst-McIntyre exchanged words and shoves at the Team White bench during the break.

After being sent off the ice to cool down, Wells and Longhurst-McIntyre returned to finish the game without further incident.

If the score of pre-season games is unimportant, the outcome of intersquad contests likely holds even less significance.

Don’t tell that to Team White, though, as they pulled out all the stops in an effort to avoid a second-straight setback against Team Black.

Trailing 4-3 in the dying moments — even though the scoreboard read 5-4 — Team White pulled goalie Samuel Rudner in favour of an extra attacker.

The move didn’t pay off, however, as they were unable to secure the equalizer.

In fact, the best scoring opportunity belonged to Team Black goalie Alex Boivin, whose lofted shot appeared to be headed in the direction of the empty cage before it was knocked down by one the Team White defenders at the offensive blue-line.

That left the final score 4-3 in favour of Team Black, who took the first intersquad game 6-3 at the Whitney Arena Wednesday night.

It was Team White that actual hit the scoreboard first Friday night, with Harry Clark netting the game’s opening goal.

Former Rock captain Derek Seguin, who will be playing in Holland this season, got Team Black back on even terms before the end of the first period.

A pair of unanswered second-period goals allowed Team White to take a 3-1 lead.

Blue-liner Tenzin Nyman and Josh Russell, an off-season acquisition from the French River Rapids, provided the fire power.

The third period was all Team Black, however, as they scored three-straight goals to turn a two-goal deficit into a one-goal victory.

Wells, Captain Felix Cadieux-Fredette, and Charles Pigeon — the younger brother of former Rock captain Nicolas Pigeon — accounted for the offensive outburst.

While the younger Pigeon didn’t look out of place, he was just out for a little extra ice time as he prepares for the upcoming prep hockey season.

Speaking of brothers, Team Black’s tandem of Patrick Boivin and Alex Boivin once again split the game in net.

Team White’s crease was patrolled by Dryden Riley and Rudner.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry was happy with what he saw during his team’s two-week main camp.

“It was good to see such a good work ethic,” he said.

“During the recruiting process it is hard to tell a kid’s character. All players say the right things and you are not going to see anything wrong when you are speaking to them and their families.

“So, the thing that impressed me the most is they are good people, they are good kids. Obviously, that’s what we are looking for here.

“It was a tough couple of weeks, with them trying to learn a bunch of stuff and then implement it into these (two) games.

“Some stuff was a little messy and we have got some work to do, obviously, but it was a good two weeks.”

The bench boss liked what he saw during Friday’s game, more than he did during Wednesday’s contest.

“It was just a little more competitive and our systems looked a little cleaner, a little bit more like what we are trying to accomplish.

“I thought Wednesday night was more like a shinny game and I wasn’t too happy with the way it went.

“I liked the effort tonight, there was a lot of clean stuff, some good entry stuff, a little better execution of our systems.

“Obviously, it is a little early.”

After two weeks on the ice and a pair of intersquad games, the Rock have a few bumps and bruises and they prepare to open play at the Cottage Cup pre-season tournament in Collingwood on Monday.

“There are a couple of guys, but it is just day-to-day at this point,” Perry said.

“We are in the gym in the morning and on the ice every night for two weeks and it is tough on the body and a couple of guys are a little banged up.”

With camp now complete, the Rock have 23 players signed and a pair of open cards at this point.

“It (the roster) is as set as it’s going to be right now,” Perry said.

“Obviously, things change. We had a lot of changes last year in September, guys who didn’t get up to speed quick enough or slacked off in the gym, slacked off in practice, stuff like that.

“We like our group right now, but guys have a way of playing themselves off the roster some times. I hope that’s not the case (this year), but from experience it usually is the case. We will see.”

The Rock will face off against the CCHL’s Carleton Place Canadians on Monday at the 2023 Cottage Cup exhibition tournament in Collingwood and then take on the OJHL’s Trenton Golden Hawks on Tuesday.

“We will just be looking to get better every single game,” Perry said.

“We have been on the ice for two weeks and it is going to be tough to go in there and compete against some of the best teams in the province.

“Hopefully, every single game we will look more and more and more like we want to look opening night and three months from now.

“Last year, it took us a while to get going and we didn’t have a great showing at the Cottage Cup, but we got better every single game and got rolling in November and it obviously worked out for us.”

The coach will be more concerned with how his team plays than the final scores of the games.

“Obviously, we want to have a good showing,” Perry said.

“We don’t want to embarrass ourselves or our program. We are competitive and we want to win games, but I want to see guys get better.”

The Rock will open the 2023-24 NOJHL regular season with a pair of road games, taking on the Cubs in Greater Sudbury on Friday, Sept. 8, and the Vikings in Elliot Lake on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Then, on Friday, Sept. 15, they will host the new-look Kirkland Lake Gold Miners in the home opener at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.