GALLERY: DAY 1: Beer impressed with potential

Day 1 of the Timmins Rock’s 2018 training camp is in the books and the NOJHL team will continue to get ready for the start of their exhibition season on Saturday in Iroquois Falls against the defending-champion Cochrane Crunch. The training camp will continue on Tuesday with the team returning to the ice at the McIntyre Arena at 9:30 p.m.

Thomas Perry
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The Timmins Rock opened training camp at the McIntyre Arena filled with an air of optimism and a desire to build upon an improbable playoff run that saw them knock off the No. 5 Junior ‘A’ team in Canada — the Powassan Voodoos.

With eight veterans — goalie Tyler Masternak, blue-liners Will Caston and James Redmond (recovering from off-season shoulder surgery), as well as forwards Derek Seguin, Stewart Parnell, Riley Robitaille, Linden Spencer and A.J. Campbell — back, coach Corey Beer and his staff have a solid nucleus around which to build their 2018-19 squad.

In addition, he had a chance to see many of the newcomers on the ice together during the Rock’s prospect camp in Oshawa in June.

Still, Monday night was an opportunity to see them all out on the ice together for the first time and he liked what he saw.

“The first day is always a tough one,” said Beer, who is entering his second season as the Rock’s bench boss.

“You are trying to see where guys left off from camp, or from last year, and still give them the benefit of the doubt. Some of them might not have been on the ice in a while.

“First impressions, I thought things went great. We had good tempo today and there was some great skill on display, so I am very excited by what I saw on Day 1.”

After a fast-paced hour-and-a-half on-ice session, it was apparent the players on the Rock roster and those brought in to challenge them are in tip-top shape.

“Absolutely, and it showed in our dry-land session this morning, as well,” Beer said.

“We had a great session and everyone powered through it. The pace and strength is evident. It is something, quite frankly, I think is going to be a strength of our team. It is going to be huge for us.”

With eight returning players, it should not take quite as long as it did last year to get the team up to speed on Beer’s systems and the way he wants them to play Rock hockey.

“It will be an on-going process,” he said.

“Our systems change a lot through the year. We tailor them to our players. You never want to have anything set in stone. You want to make sure you are putting your guys in the best situations to be successful.

“It is great to have the continuity of having guys back from last year. They know how practices are run, the day-to-day operations and how we want things to work in terms of work ethic.

“Our guys who are back from last year’s team are almost an extension of the coaching staff.

“The new guys are going to pick things up quickly. We have a lot of talent and hockey IQ.”

With the addition of Luka Bolduc (6-3, 196), Carson Burlington (6-1, 190), Owen Shier (6-1, 185), Connor Mullins (6-0, 190), Ian Elkins (6-0, 180) and Eric Moreau (5-8, 175) to the blue-line mix, the Rock have added an element of size, while not sacrificing anything in terms of speed or first-pass effectiveness.

“I think our defence is really mobile right now, which is exciting to see,” Beer said.

“There were a lot of good, crisp passes on the tape. We are going to be a team that can push the pace.”

Even though Redmond is unable to participate in camp and likely won’t be available for action until sometime in November or December, he was on hand to show his support for the boys on Monday.

“In the truest sense of the word, he is a pro,” Beer said.

“He showed up Sunday in a dress shirt and dress shoes on Sunday and he looked the part and he acted it.

“He is good with the guys in the room and he is going to be a mentor to some of our younger defencemen.

“He is everything you want in a teammate and, as a coach, he is everything you want in a player. It is great to see he is on the mend. James is a huge part of this club.”

Up front, the Rock added a lot of skill with the additions of Keegan McMullin, Joshua Kego, Josh Dickson, Austin Holmes, Riley Brousseau, Cameron Chisholm, Maxime Charbonneau, Darcy Haupt, Mahingan Decontie and Maxime Piquette.

“Our forward depth is pretty incredible,” Beer said.

“There is a lot of speed and a lot of talent.”

In net, Nicholas Dicks was brought in the share the crease with Masternak following the trade of Eric Jackson.

“Both of our goalies looked really good out there, as well.

“It was only Day 1 and you don’t want to get too excited, but we feel really good about this group. Hopefully, the trend will continue throughout training camp.”

Among the players in camp trying to push for a job are Timmins Majors goalie Dylan Dallaire, Timmins Majors forward Gavin Martel, Timmins Majors blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz, Kapuskasing Flyers D-man Cooper Rousey, Kyler Campbell (younger brother of A.J. Campbell).

Also on hand is Timmins native Danny Katic, looking to get a little extra ice time before reporting the Saginaw Spirit training camp at the end of this week.

“It is great to have a guy like Danny come in here and skate with our group,” Beer said.

“It is something other teams might not have access to and he commands respect out there on the ice. He wants the puck on his stick and he wants it on the right spot. If he doesn’t get it, he is going to let you know.

“That’s a huge thing because we want to have that same kind of demeanor for our guys.

“When you see a guy who has played major junior and he is still driven to stay on the ice and keep himself it great shape, it is something our guys can look to and say, ‘hey, I want to aspire to that, as well.’”

The coach feels it is especially beneficial to somebody like Robitaille, a player of similar size.

“Riley had a great playoffs for us last year and he looks just as good this year,” Beer said.

Knock on wood, the Rock finished up Day 1 with only Redmond on the injured list.

“Everyone is healthy, but this will probably be the last time I am able to say that,” Beer said.

“There are always bumps and bruises to get through. Guys are fighting for positions out there, or depth in the lineup. It is something you have to push through.”

The Rock will open their exhibition season against their arch rivals, the defending NOJHL champion Cochrane Crunch, on Saturday at the Jus Jordan Arena in Iroquois Falls, but winning or losing will be secondary.

“It is just going to be a matter of getting out there and getting some of the game jitters out of the way,” Beer said.

“It will be the first Junior ‘A’ hockey game for a lot of these guys.

“We don’t put a lot of emphasis on the exhibition season. Some of our guys have been through a lot of them now, but for other guys, you don’t want to put too much weight on it because results wise, it doesn’t mean anything.

“It is just going to be a matter of trying to get these guys as much experience as possible, as quickly as possible.”