A one-for-one trade with the Kanata Lasers, of the CCHL, has allowed the Rock to repatriate one Timmins hockey product while providing an opportunity for another to find his game.
Prior to embarking on this weekend’s two-game road trip through Powassan and French River, the Rock announced they have acquired 2001-birth-year forward Gage Tremblay in exchange for 2000-birth-year forward Austin Holmes.
Tremblay, who last played hockey in Timmins as a member of the Minor Peewee ‘AAA’ North Stars started the 2018-19 season with the Lasers (16, 0-1-1, 21) after spending the 2017-18 campaign with the Whitewater Kings (50, 9-15-24, 38), of the CCHL2.
Tremblay saw his first action in a Rock uniform Friday night against the Voodoos in Powassan and he was back in the lineup for Saturday night’s contest against the Rapids in French River.
“I thought he handled himself extremely well during those two games,” said Rock coach Corey Beer.
“He was playing in a new system, with new teammates and I thought he had a great weekend.
“I think he is going to be a tremendous asset for us. He is 6-2, he skates extremely well and he has a great skill set. He is going to be able to play throughout our Top 9 and eventually be a power-play guy for us.
“Once he gets acclimated to our systems and our style of play, I think he is going to be a great player for us. The sky is the limit in terms of his potential.”
Having played minor hockey up to the Minor Peewee ‘AAA’ in the city, while growing up in Matheson, Tremblay is anxious to continue his Junior ‘A’ career in the friendly confines of the McIntyre Arena.
“Coming back here really hits close to home,” he said.
“Having my family come and watch me play is going to be great. It will be like that hometown kind of feeling and I am really happy to be here.
“I grew up playing minor hockey in the McIntyre Arena and I can saw there is no better place to play Junior ‘A’ hockey.
“When you pack this place on a Friday night or a Saturday night, there is no better feeling than having all those fans cheering.”
Being from the area, there are a couple of members of the Rock Tremblay knows quite well.
“I grew up playing minor hockey in my younger years with (Rock forward) Riley Brousseau,” he said.
“He and I are pretty close and he was a big help when I was making the decision to continue my Junior ‘A’ career here in Timmins. We are good buddies and I know how he plays.”
Tremblay is confident his transition to the NOJHL will be smooth and seemless.
“I think it is going to be easier than it would be going to somewhere I am not familiar with,” he said.
“I have lots of family and friends just down the road and I am familiar with the league. I used to watch the Abitibi Eskimos when the team was still in Iroquois Falls.”
After playing Minor Peewee ‘AAA’ hockey, Tremblay moved to Ottawa to continue his career.
“Through the rest of my minor hockey career, I played with the Ottawa Senators organization,” he said.
Rock fans shouldn’t expect Tremblay to display the kind of offensive upside captain Derek Seguin provides on a nightly basis.
“I consider myself to be mainly a defensive forward, but I am still able to produce a little bit of offence because of my size and my speed,” Tremblay said.
“I played with the Lasers this season and I was affiliated with Pembroke last season when I played Junior ‘B’ with Whitewater, so I got experience playing against and with some of the players in the league which made making the jump easier.
In addition to gaining a younger player, the transaction provides the Rock with a larger, more physical player up front as Tremblay stands 6-2 and weighs 184 pounds compared to Holmes’ 5-11, 174-pound frame.
Holmes showed a great deal of promise as an affiliate player with the Rock (10, 2-5-7, 2) during the 2017-18 season, while turning in an outstanding season as a member of the GNML’s Timmins Majors (33, 14-17-31, 117).
While he demonstrated flashes of that offensive flair in the early going, Holmes struggled to maintain his spot in an improved Rock lineup in 2018-19 (18, 1-1-2, 23).
Beer is confident a change of scenery will help Holmes reach his full potential.
“He came up last year and he was a good AP (affiliate player) for us,” he said.
“He really did a great job. This year, he was a little snake-bitten around the net and he just couldn’t achieve the consistency level he was striving for out there.
“Sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for a player. He is going to be getting a fresh start and we wish him nothing but the best.”