Rock acquires Svarich from Kodiaks, ship Russell to Lumberjacks

Timmins has acquired forward Mason Svarich, shown here in action with the Hearst Lumberjacks against the Rock at the McIntyre Arena on Feb. 20, from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks, in exchange for a player development fee. The Rock then dealt forward Josh Russell to the Lumberjacks, also in exchange for a player development fee. FILE PHOTO/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

Having snapped their four-game losing streak on Friday, the Timmins Rock swung a pair of trades on Sunday to fine tune their roster.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

First off, the Rock acquired forward Mason Svarich from the Camrose Kodiaks, of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, in exchange for a player development fee.

Then, they dealt forward Josh Russell, whom they had acquired from the French River Rapids in the off season, to the East Division-rival Hearst Lumberjacks, also in exchange for a player development fee.

Svarich, a 5-11, 172-pound left-hand shooting 2003-birth-year Stony Plain, Alta., product, is off course no stranger to the NOJHL, as he spent the 2022-23 campaign with the Lumberjacks (regular season: 57, 30-24-54, 4; playoffs: 6, 3-1-4, 0).

With the Kodiaks, Svarich (7, 2-0-2, 0) had been off to a bit of a slow start, by his standards, in 2023-24.

“We are super excited to bring Mason in here,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“He is a former 30-goal scorer in our league, so that should help us fix some of our scoring depth and add a little bit of compete up front for us.”

Putting the puck in the net has been a bit of an issue for the Rock 11 games into the 2023-24 campaign, as they only have 40 goals on the season.

Liam Wells, with 10, and Kaeden McArthur, with six, are the only Rock players who have eclipsed the five-goal mark to this point.

“I think (scoring more goals than assisting on them) was a byproduct of his environment last year,” Perry said.

“There were a lot of good passers on that Hearst team last year and obviously they were very offensive minded.

“It shows that he has skills to put pucks in the net and finish off plays, but he can also play without the puck, play with a lot of pace and he is good in his own end.”

In his first season with the Rock, Russell (9, 3-6-9, 8) had been averaging a point per game, but struggled to find a consistent spot in the lineup as the season progressed.

“(With Russell), it was just a numbers thing,” Perry said.

“You are only allowed eight 20 year olds, so to bring in another 20 year old we had to get rid of one, so he was kind of the odd man out.

“It is not on Josh, at all. The team, as a whole, had not been performing well and I think the team as a whole didn’t have the culture we wanted in that dressing room.

“Unfortunately for him (Russell), he was just caught in a numbers game with us. We wanted to stay loyal to the returning 20 year olds who were on our roster last season, whether that is fair or not, this is the direction we are going.”

In addition to Svarich, the roster of 20 year olds includes forwards Harry Clark, Wells and Nolan Ring, as well as blue-liners Kyle Trottier, Felix Cadieux-Fredette and Chase Longhurst-McIntyre and goalie Patrick Boivin, all of whom were with the Rock in 2022-23.

As of Sunday, the Rock coach was not sure when Svarich would arrive in Timmins, but he was hopeful it would be in time to get a few practices under his belt and in the lineup in time for Friday night’s game against the Blind River Beavers.

And he also indicated Sunday’s trades likely wouldn’t be the last changes made to the roster in the near future.

“We are looking to make more moves,” Perry said.

“We have given guys two months here and a big part of it is the on-ice product and a big part of it is the off-ice product.

“The culture in the (dressing) room isn’t good. I don’t know how it has fallen so far from last season with the amount of returning players we have, but there is just something not right. I can’t tell you what it is, I can’t put a finger on it, but we have got to fix it.

“Four wins in our first 11 games, obviously nobody in the organization is satisfied with that, so we are looking at everything.”

The Rock record of 4-6-1-0 certainly pales in comparison to the team’s 6-3-1-1 record through the first 11 games of 2022-23 that laid the foundation for an NOJHL championship.

But the 40 goals they have scored this season are just four off the 44 tallies the team had at this point in 2022-23.

It is defensively where the Rock have struggled most to this point, as they have allowed 48 goals in 2023-24 — up significantly from the 27 they had allowed through 11 games during the previous campaign.