By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock have bolstered their blue-line following last week’s deal that saw defenceman Tyler Somers shipped to the Blind River Beavers in a straight cash transaction.
Brennan McGuire, a 20-year-old Bloomington, Minn., native who started the season with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (8, 0-0-0, 4), has been signed as a free agent.
The 6-0, 185-pound, right-handed shooting blue-liner arrived in camp on the weekend, but his acquisition could not be announced until the paperwork had cleared on Wednesday.
“He is a good skater,” said Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne.
“He makes a good first pass, he has a great wrist shot and what I really like about him is that he really pays attention to what we are asking him to do in practice. He is very attentive.”
Gagne envisions McGuire will be in the Rock’s fifth-sixth defensive pairing, when the team travels to Espanola for a game with the Express Friday night and to Rayside-Balfour for a game with the Canadians Saturday night.
“I hope he fills that role really well, he said.
“If we can get him to penalty kill and play against the other teams’ top lines that would be great. That is what we are looking for from him.”
McGuire played in one of the three regular season games between the Gold Miners and the Rock, at the McIntyre Arena on Oct. 7.
“He was just coming back from an injury and he didn’t play too much in that game,” Gagne said.
McGuire spent the 2014-15 season with the Saint-Jérôme Panthères (50, 0-5-5, 25), of the QJAAAHL and split the 2013-14 campaign between the Panthères (15, 0-2-2, 0) and the Waywayseecappo Wolverines (24, 0-5-5, 14), of the MJHL.
The defender does not anticipate any nerves as he gets into his first game action with the Rock this weekend.
“This is my third year of playing Junior ‘A’, so I am pretty used to being in a new atmosphere,” McGuire said.
“I have played for four different teams officially now, so I am used to things changing.”
The Bloomington, Minn., native has been paired with Nick Hautanen in practice so far this week as he adapts to the Paul Gagne program of playing Rock hockey.
“Things have been going pretty good,” he said.
“It’s a process. Every team does some things different than other teams, but the transition here has been very easy and the guys have really helped me out.”
McGuire says he learned a lot during his brief time playing under Gold Miners coach and general manager Marc Lafleur in Kirkland Lake.
“They have a lot of systems, probably more than most teams and that made the transition a little bit easier here in Timmins,” he said.
McGuire has a clear understanding of his role as a member of the Rock blue-line corps.
“For now, my job is to shut things down and be really solid defensively,” he said.
“They also want me to get on the penalty kill and help the boys out.
“That could change, because I haven’t played any games with Timmins yet, but for now I am looking at shutting things down on the back end.”
McGuire feels he is naturally a bit more of an offensive defenceman but he understands different teams have different roles for everybody.
“That’s something I am completely willing to accept,” he said.
“I like to model my game after Jared Spurgeon, of the Minnesota Wild. He is an offensive threat, but at the same time he can recover and get back and help out in the D zone. He has good hands and he is smart with the puck.”
As one might expect, being from the state of Minnesota, McGuire is a big Wild fan but he also likes the Toronto Maple Leafs.
No, it’s not because his current coach and GM once wore the blue and white many, many decades ago.
“My goalie coach (Steve Briere) from high school signed with Toronto this year and he is their head goalie coach,” McGuire said.
“So, I will be rooting for them this season.”
Given that the Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks both play in the NHL’s Central Division, there could be some interesting discussions on the Rock team bus this winter between McGuire and teammates Devin Panzeca and Mike Norris, who both hail from Chicago and are big Blackhawks fans.
“I am not the biggest ’Hawks fan,” he said.
“It will be interesting. Hopefully, the Wild can pull it out this year. I have been a little disappointed during the past few years with them losing out in the playoffs to Chicago.”
McGuire’s first three games with the Rock will be on the road, with the third of those contests against the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.
“I am really looking forward to it,” he said.
“I am pretty close with the guys there, so it will be good to see them and play against them. I will have a little bit of fun, but obviously when we get on the ice we will be gunning for each other.”
McGuire is also looking forward to getting to play his first home game in the historic McIntyre Arena.
“From what I know and from what I have seen they have some pretty rapid fans here,” he said.
“They have some great fans here and none of the other teams in the league can compare.”
While the Rock will have McGuire in the lineup this weekend, they will be without two of their top scorers.
Leading scorer Tristan Salesse (14, 13-16-29, 4) will be serving the first two games of a three-game suspension he received for arguing that the clock had expired prior to Jake Staples netting the game-winning goal with less than a second to play in Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the Powassan Voodoos.
Salesse was assessed the suspension and a $125 fine for receiving a GM21 Disputing Call with Official: Verbal Abuse of a Game Official. 9.2 (b) as well as a GM in the final 10 minutes of a game.
In addition to missing this weekend’s game, Salesse will also miss the Rock’s next game against the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake on Thursday, Nov. 5.
He will be eligible to return to the lineup when the Rock play their next home game on Saturday, Nov. 7, when they host the NOJHL West Division-leading Soo Thunderbirds at the McIntyre Arena.
Forward Jordan Rendle (15, 10-9-19, 12), who is tied for third on the team in scoring, has been doing some light skating in practice this week, but he will be held out of the lineup this weekend to avoid the possibility of further aggravating the lower-body injury he suffered in Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to the Voodoos.
To avoid giving Express coach Tom McCarthy and Canadians coach Jason Young any advance notice, Gagne would not confirm which players will move up to the club’s top two lines to take the place of Salesse and Rendle for the weekend games.
“The other kids that are here are just going to step up and do their jobs,” he said.
“We are not expecting them to be our top scorers this weekend. All we are asking is that they contribute in our program. As long as their effort and their compete level is there, we should be OK.”
Goalie Logan Ferrington (590:00, 5-4-1-0, 0, 3.15, .921), who suffered a lower-body injury in practice earlier this week has also been doing some light skating and is expected to dress as backup to Matthew Nixon (320:00, 4-1-0-0, 0, 2.44, .938) for the two games this weekend.