TIMMINS - The Rock have acquired another smooth-skating blue-liner as the franchise prepares for its first NOJHL season back in Timmins.
At 5-11, 192-pounds, Tyler Somers formerly of the Clarence Beavers, of the EOJHL, could be a clone of fellow blue-liner Andrew Castagna acquired earlier this off season from the Ridge Meadow Flames, of the PJHL, although the later is a little heavier than his new teammate.
In fact, Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne’s description of Somers is almost word-for-word what he had to say when Castagna’s arrival was announced back on July 8.
“He moves the puck really well and he skates really well,” he said.
“He has good vision out on the ice and he is a smart player.
“He can play on the power play, he can play a regular shift and he can kill penalties.”
Gagne agrees the two blue-liners will likely bring similar skill sets to the Rock lineup this season.
“I think they will and it is nice to have that,” he said.
“Defencemen who can move the puck and have vision with the puck are a real asset.
“We do a lot of neutral-zone counterattacks. We try to spend less time in our defensive zones, so one good pass can make a difference.
“Tyler and Andrew have good vision with the puck and they move it quickly. Any time our program will allow them to jump into the play, they will do it.”
Somers, who will turn 18 on Oct. 24, put up decent numbers — seven goals, 16 assists, for 23 points, while spending 48 minutes in the penalty box — in 33 games on the blue-line for the Beavers last season.
He also got into one game with the Hawkesbury Hawks, of the CCHL, although he did not register any points or penalty minutes.
The Rock are hoping that Somers will be ready for training camp, although he is recovering from a shoulder injury.
“He had surgery and the surgery went well,” Gagne said.
“He has started doing some physical activity, so we are hoping he will be on the ice full time at the start of our main training camp on Aug. 17.”
The injury will likely keep Somers out of the Rock lineup for the early part of the season, however.
“The middle or maybe the third week of September, he has to go see his orthopaedic surgeon to confirm whether the shoulder is healed enough to resume body contact,” Gagne said.
“So, we are hoping the see him in action by the end of September, hopefully.”
The addition of Somers and Castagna, as well as the return of veterans Kealey Cummings and Joe Olson, gives the Rock four defenceman on the roster, so far.
They will play in front of returning goalie Logan Ferrington, who has also committed to return to the team.
The Rock made another move this week, as well, shipping forward Blake Cudmore (47, 8-15-23, 8) to the Yarmouth Mariners, of the MHL.
“Blake had a good season with us, but he got lost in the shuffle in the last month of the season and then in the playoffs,” Gagne said.
“We had him on the third line and for about a month-and-a-half him, Cosmo (Amore) and (Patrick) Picard had a role and they were really playing well within their role.
“They were an active, make-it-happen line and then it just tapered off a bit.
“Mistakes were being made that he didn’t like … mistakes that had been made in the first month of the season.
“When you start doing that, you end up with a lack of ice time, but I liked his speed, I liked his size and he had a half-decent shot.
“Being in his second year of Junior ‘A’ hockey, though, I think he is better off playing in Yarmouth, where he will get more ice time. He just needs to put it all together and be more consistent.”
The loss of Cudmore leaves the Rock with four forwards currently on the roster — returnees Kyle Levis and Tristan Salesse, as well as newcomers Cole Gilligan and Ravinder Shokar.
With the trade of Cudmore, the Rock have now shipped out five players who accounted for 84 goals and 211 points in 2014-15, while bringing in four players who represent four goals and 24 points from the same time frame.
That might have something to do with why the Rock are not quite the halfway mark in season ticket sales (293 of the 650 goal) despite the enthusiasm with which the relocation of the franchise from Iroquois Falls was received after it was announced.
Gagne is confident, however, that the Rock will be able to attract some high-powered offensive players in the coming weeks.
“We had our sights on a player who put up 68 points last year and the deal was almost done, but the kid wound up making a team in the NAHL (North American Hockey League),” he said.
“Those things happen. That’s hockey.
“So, we are in pursuit of two or three top-level players. We have a few things on the table right now.”
Fans looking to purchase season tickets for the 2015-16 NOJHL season can do so by visiting the Rock website: www.timminsrock.com.