Rock deal Bessette to Express

The Timmins Rock, who will host the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena Friday night, have traded forward Yan Bessette, shown here in action during an NOJHL game against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Sept. 17, to the Espanola Express in exchange for a player development fee. With 15 forwards in camp, Bessette simply became the odd man out and the hope is he will get more ice time with the West Division Express. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

As the NOJHL’s Timmins Rock prepare to welcome the Cochrane Crunch to the McIntyre Arena Friday night they have completed a trade with the West Division’s Espanola Express.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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Forward Yan Bessette (8, 1-3-4, 4) will be joining the Express in exchange for a player development fee.

The 18-year-old right-hand shooting Bourget, Ont., native had been in his first year with the Rock after being acquired from the EOJHL’s Alexandria Glens prior to the start of the season.

“We are pretty deep up front,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“If we are carrying 15, or even 14 (following Friday’s trade), players, there are two good players in the stands every night.

“I don’t necessarily think that’s what’s best for a player’s development.

“Obviously, we need bodies here because over the course of a season there are going to be injuries and suspensions and you kind of need those bodies to plug guys in, when needed, but he is just a player can get more opportunities somewhere else and we think it is what’s best for him.”

Bessette’s new team, the Express, are scheduled to make their only visit this season to the McIntyre Arena on March 11 — the second-last game of the 2021-22 NOJHL campaign.

Meanwhile the Rock will visit Espanola on Feb. 4, as the home-and-home portion of the schedule against West Division squads kicks off in the new year.

Even with Bessette’s departure, the Rock still have 14 healthy forwards in camp, so they should have no issues icing as full squad for Friday night’s contest against the Crunch.

“Everybody’s back, everybody is healthy,” Perry said.

“Nolan Ring is back from his lower body injury. Not sure if he is going to be in the lineup Friday night, but he is back and we have a full lineup.”

The only Rock player not available to suit up for Friday night’s contest will be blue-liner Aiden Farr, who remains out with an upper-body injury.

“Everybody else is healthy and we are just trying to figure out what our lineup is going to look like Friday night,” Perry said.

“Today’s practice will give us more of an idea and that’s how it is here. We have a super competitive group and we compete in practice. It is not all about games.

“It is how you compete during the week in practice and how you show the staff how bad you want to be in the lineup. We have another one today for our guys to prove why they deserve to play Friday night.”

It will be the second visit to the McIntyre Arena this season for the Crunch, who dropped a 9-2 decision back on Oct. 5.

That was the second of two meetings so far for the East Division rivals, as the Rock edged the Crunch 3-2 in Cochrane back on Sept. 25.

Heading into Friday night, the Rock (11-1-1-0) sit two points back of the Powassan Voodoos (11-2-2-1) in both the East Division and NOJHL overall standings, although they have three games in hand on their rivals.

The early season struggles for the Crunch have continued (2-12-1-1) and they find themselves dead last in both the East Division and NOJHL overall standings.

Still, Perry isn’t about to let his Rock take their foot off the gas and look past the Crunch.

“It’s a trap game,” he said.

“You look at the first time we went up there and played them in Cochrane. We got away there with a 3-2 win but they were beating us by one goal all game until something like the last eight minutes.

“I think we scored with like three or four minutes left to go up by one.

“So, listen, if we are serious about where we want to be at the end of the year and being legit contenders, not only in our league, but in our province and our country, then we have to show up and play against this team just like we do against everybody else.

“We have a job to do and we want to come out Friday night and put on a show for our fans, compete and take another step toward being the team we want to be, come April.”

Offensively, the Rock have scored 60 goals on the season — trailing only the Voodoos (61) and French River Rapids (61), who have played three and two more games respectively.

Their balanced attack has already seen eight players — captain Tyler Schwindt (13, 13-5-18, 10), Riley Brousseau (13, 5-11-16, 4), blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz (13, 3-11-14, 11), Nicolas Pigeon (13, 2-12-14, 12), blue-liner Bode Dunford (13, 3-10-13, 8), Christopher Engelbert (13, 6-6-12, 2), Tyler Gilberds (13, 6-6-12, 16) and Tyler Patterson (13, 2-8-10, 0) — crack the 10-point plateau this season.

And that doesn’t include the production of blue-liner Riley Dubois (13, 2-7-9, 0), Justin Charette (13, 2-6-8, 2), currently injured Nolan Ring (8, 3-4-7, 0), Liam Wells (13, 4, 2, 6, 10), blue-liner Tanner Hamilton (13, 3-3-6, 14) and newcomer Nicholas Frederick (7, 2-3-5, 12).

Scoring goals has not quite come so easily for the Crunch, who rank dead last in the NOJHL, with 35.

Only three Crunch skaters — Liam Boswell (16, 7-4-11, 10), Jake Alton (16, 6-5-11, 2) and Matteo Peca (16, 4-6-10, 16) — have hit double digits.

Benjamin Orgil (10, 3-2-5, 4) and Alexander Thompson (8, 3-1-4, 0) have provided solid secondary scoring.

Defensively, the Rock have allowed the fewest goals (31) in the NOJHL to this point in the season.

Gavin McCarthy (664:00, 9-1-1-0, 0, 2.35, .912), who has appeared in 11 of the Rock’s 13 games, has been solid between the pipes.

And there has been little, if any, drop off when Konrad Simard (120:00, 2-0-0-0, 0, 2.50, .848) has manned the crease.

The Crunch are tied with the West Division’s Elliot Lake Red Wings for the most goals (80) allowed so far this season, but the latter has played one more game.

That said, goaltending isn’t necessarily the issue in Cochrane, as neither Michael Nickolau (592:00, 1-9-1-0, 0, 5.68, .884) nor Ben DiGiallonardo (377:00, 1-3-0-1, 0, 3.66, .924) has received much support from the guys playing in front of them to this point.

As with most games, special teams could prove to be a huge factor Friday night.

The Rock currently sport the No. 1 power play in the NOJHL, with an efficiency rating of 27.1 per cent.

On the other hand, the Crunch, at 10.3 per cent, rank dead last in the 12-team league.

The disparity between the two squads is not quite as pronounced, however, when it comes to the penalty kill.

The Rock have the seventh-best PK in the NOJHL, with a success rate of 84.1 per cent.

Currently, the Crunch sit at No. 9, with an efficiency rating of 79.2 per cent.

And the Crunch have scored a pair of shorthanded goals this season, while the Rock have just one.

The Rock have yet to yield a shorthanded goal this season, while the Crunch have allowed just one.

Even though the Rock have played the Crunch twice already this season, Perry isn’t taking anything for granted.

“They are going to get better, they are going to make adjustments,” he said.

“The forecheck we saw from them last time might not be the same. The penalty kill might not be the same. The power play might not be the same.”

Despite their early season success, the Rock are looking to tweak their game, as well.

“All around, there are little things we are trying to clean up,” Perry said.

“Just watching the Hearst game (a 4-3 win Sunday afternoon), I think our breakouts out of our own end, we have got to get a little cleaner, get a little more efficient.

“There were a couple of risky passes in the middle and today will be a big special-teams day. Obviously on the power play and penalty kill we are continuing to strive to get better, look for different ways to score and different ways to produce momentum.

“I think a big thing focusing on Cochrane is going to be net traffic. They have two very capable goalies, big guys.”