By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – It has often been said good things come in small packages and Timmins Rock fans will be hoping that old adage rings true this season
The Rock announced on Friday they have acquired 5-5, 150-pound, centre Tyler Romain from the Cambridge Winter Hawks, of the GOJHL.
The 19-year-old Timmins native split the 2014-15 campaign between the Winter Hawks (9, 1-3-4, 4) and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (26, 9-12-21, 21), and spending the 2013-14 season with the Napanne Raiders (38, 30-22-52, 29), of the EBJCHL.
Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne had a first-hand opportunity to see Romain in action during the five games against his Abitibi Eskimos last season, as the diminutive centre earned five assists and picked up one two-minute minor penalty in those contests.
“We got to see him quite a bit on video and in games we played against him,”Gagne said.
“He is a dynamic player. He is not big physically, but he does play big and he competes. He has a good strong stick and is a good positional player.”
During his time with the Gold Miners, Romain demonstrated excellent speed and skating.
“He has got good vision and he is good with the puck,” Gagne said.
“His skating ability is incredible, as well. He moves laterally just as well as he does straight forward.
“Offensively, he is going to bring lots to our team.
“Since he has played novice hockey, he has always had lots of offensive upside.
“He is going into this second year of Junior ‘A’ hockey now and I think he learned quite a bit in Kirkland Lake, how to be disciplined, how to play a 200-foot game and be responsible, obviously, in the defensive zone.
“If he can put all of that together, I think he is going to have a great season for us.”
Given the loss of offensive weapons such as Brady Clouthier (46, 41-52-93, 77) Brenden Locke (46, 41-40-81, 21), Brennan Roy (51, 29-42-71, 75) and Jake Holland (34, 19-36-55, 40), the Rock will be counting on players like Romain, returnee Tristan Salesse (33, 15-30-45, 23) and newcomer Jordan Rendle (40, 15-22-37, 133, with Ridge Meadow Flames, of the PIJHL).
“Last year, I think was the first year that Tyler ever had to worry about the defensive part of his game,” Gagne said.
“To play Junior ‘A’ hockey, you have to learn to play a 200-foot game. I think he understands that and if he adds a lot of upside on the offence sometimes you can get away with things defensively, as long as you stay on the plus side (of plus/minus average).”
Romain attended the Rock’s four-day tryout camp earlier this month, although at the time, it appeared he was just looking to get in a little extra ice time in his home town before reporting to the Winter Hawks.
It gave Gagne an opportunity to see even more of Romain and the coach liked what he saw.
“He still belongs to the Junior ‘B’ team in Cambridge, but I was impressed with him tonight,” Gagne said, after Day 2 of the tryout camp.
“The first three goals that were scored (during the scrimmage), I think he was on the ice for all of them.
“He has a lot of skills. He is not very big, but he learned the game in Kirkland Lake with (Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc) Lafleur and if he wants to play and be a two-way player there might be an opportunity.”
That opportunity has indeed materialized, although the Rock’s hopes of having 18-year-old Falmouth, N.S., defenceman Jabes Benedict patrol their blue-line this season will not.
Benedict has opted to sign with the Campbellton Tigers, of the MHL, and play a little closer to home this season.
With the Rock’s main training camp at the McIntyre Arena set to open at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Gagne is still working to finalize his list of invitees.
“We are looking at a couple of other kids from the (United) States, who hopefully will be able to make it on Monday,” he said.
“We are hoping to have 24 or 25 players there for the start of camp.”
The format for the team’s training camp will be a little different than the tryout camp held at the start of this month.
“The first practice there will be more flow drills and then we will get into some introduction of our program,” Gagne said.
“We have games the following weekend, so we might as well get going with the program. The players are not just going to be skating around scrimmaging. It is going to be structured.”
The Rock will play their first exhibition game against the Gold Miners at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex in Kirkland Lake on Friday, Aug. 21, with the two teams then meeting the following night at the McIntyre Arena, giving Timmins fans their first opportunity to see the Rock in action.
NOJHL notes — The Cochrane Crunch have acquired forward Hunter Atchison (36, 11-19-30, 46) from the Saanich Braves, of the VIJHL. The 18-year-old Victoria native is 6-0 and weighs 205 pounds. The Crunch have also added 18-year-old defenceman Joseph Thielen (24, 1-5-6, 14) from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, of the T1EHL. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native is 5-11 and 165 pounds … The Blind River Beavers have traded forward Jared Binguis (26, 2-3-5, 8) to the French River Rapids. The 20-year-old Lac Seul, Ont., native is 5-10 and 201 pounds … The Elliot Lake Wildcats have acquired forward Ty Hannaford (44, 16-5-21, 34) from the Athens Aeros, of the CCHL2. The 19-year-old Kemptville, Ont., native is 6-0 and 187 pounds … The Gold Miners have acquired forward Declan Conway (44, 6-18-24, 82) from Fort Erie Meteors, of the GOJHL. The 19-year-old Concord, Oh., native is 5-10 and 161 pounds … The Iroquois Falls Eskimos have announced the return of 19-year-old forward/defenceman Nathan Avery (35, 3-13-16, 74), who spent the 2014-15 season with the franchise when it was located in Mattawa and known as the Blackhawks. The Russell, Ont., native is 5-10 and 174 pounds.