By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – At the risk of sounding like a homer, I am starting to think the Timmins Rock are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NOJHL.
For our younger readers who might not be familiar with the work of the late comedian, his catchphrase was “I don’t get no respect!”
In their second season back in Timmins, the Rock have been playing pretty good hockey to this point in the 2016-17 NOJHL campaign and have compiled a record of 12-4-0-0, good for third place in the East Division standings.
They trail the Powassan Voodoos (14-3-1-0) by five points and the Cochrane Crunch (12-2-3-1) by four points, with two games in hand on both of their division rivals.
Over in the West Division, the Soo Thunderbirds (14-5-0-0) have four more points than the Rock, while the Rayside-Balfour Canadians (12-5-2-0) have accumulated two more points to this point. The Rock have three games in hand on both of those franchises.
So, where should the Rock rank in relation to the other top teams in the NOJHL?
At this point in the season, winning percentage is the best measuring stick and it does not hurt to look at how teams have done in direct competition against each other, either.
At .806, the Voodoos have the top winning percentage in the league, followed by the Crunch (.778), the Rock (.750), the Thunderbirds (.737), the Canadians (.684), the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (.500), the Blind River Beavers (.500), the Elliot Lake Wildcats (.425), the Soo Eagles (.400), the Iroquois Falls Eskis (.368), the Espanola Express (.289) and the French River Rapids (.118).
So, when the Canadian Junior Hockey League came out with its weekly Top 20 rankings of Junior ‘A’ teams across the country and included three NOJHL franchises, you would naturally expect them to be in order: Powassan, Cochrane and Timmins.
Nope. The Voodoos — riding a seven-game winning streak and with a record of 9-1 in their past 10 games — are ranked No. 11 in the country, followed by the Thunderbirds (six-game winning streak, 7-3 in their past 10 games) at No. 17 and the Crunch (winless in two games, with a record of 6-2-0-2 in their past 10 games) at No. 19.
Not even an honourable mention for the Rock (currently on a one-game winning streak, with a record of 8-2-0-0 in their past 10 games, second-best in the NOJHL during that span).
To be fair, winning percentage is just one of the factors the CJHL takes into account when determining its Top 20. It also looks at the league in which the team plays, win-loss record, total points accumulated, goals-for versus goals-against ratio, etc.
So, lets compare the two teams based upon those factors.
League: Tie, both the Rock and the Thunderbirds play in the NOJHL.
Winning percentage: Advantage Rock, .750 to .737.
Win-loss record: Advantage Thunderbirds, 14-5-0-0 to 12-4-0-0.
Total points accumulated: Advantage Thunderbirds 28-24.
Goals-for versus goals-against ratio: Advantage Rock 31 to 28.
Teams in the NOJHL’s East Division, like the Rock, only play teams in the West Division, like the Thunderbirds, twice this season — once at home and once on the road.
When the Thunderbirds visited the McIntyre Arena on Oct. 9, the Rock handed them an 8-1 setback.
The Rock are scheduled to visit the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday, Nov. 13.
So, what logic did the CJHL use to rank the Thunderbirds and exclude the Rock?
Not sure even Star Trek’s Mr. Spock could come up with an argument to support such a move.
For the record CJHL, respect is spelled: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”
How about giving the Rock a little, when you unveil next week’s Top 20 rankings.
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And, it appears it isn’t just at the CJHL level the Rock are in need of an injection of respect.
The NOJHL announced this week its roster and off-ice staff for the Eastern Canada Cup All-Star Challenge.
Not a Rock player, coach, manager or trainer to be found in the bunch.
Nobody from the Canadians, the Gold Miners, the Express or the Rapids, either.
There are six, that’s right six, members of the Thunderbirds: Defencemen Jake Behse, and Wyatt Villalta, as well as forwards Matthew Caruso, Zach Senecal, Greg Smith and Mark Tassone.
The Voodoos also placed six players on the team: Goalie Nate McDonald, defencemen Dayton Murray and Eric Nagy, as well as forwards Andy Baker, Parker Bowman and Gary Mantz.
Three members of the Crunch made the squad: Goalie Jacob Burhans, as well as forwards Braeden Cross and Brandon McReynolds.
A pair of Beavers were named to the team: Defenceman Cole Peck and forward Max Khull.
The remaining three members of the squad are Eskis forward David Osborne, Wildcats blue-liner Damian Figueira and Eagles forward Chris Murphy.
The three alternate members of the squad are Beavers defenceman Jordan Kreller, Eagles blue-liner Nolan Makkonen and Beavers forward Caleb Serre.
Off-ice officials include: Commissioner Robert Mazzuca, executive director Ted Magee, director of operations Jim Bruce (Voodoos), head coach Scott Wray (Voodoos), assistant coach Moe Mantha (Rapids), assistant coach Kyle Brick (Beavers), athletic Trainer J.J. Johnson (Voodoos), equipment manager Brian Workman (Canadians), trainer/equipment manager Lisa Parise (Canadians).
• • •
The NOJHL continues to graduate players to OHL and the QMJHL.
As documented in Wednesday’s edition of The Daily Press, right winger Chad Denault has made a successful jump to the Peterborough Petes, of the OHL.
Denault, a former member of the NOBHL’s Timmins Eagles, started this year with the Canadians (17, 6-7-13, 14), before signing with the Petes last week.
The Iroquois Falls native, taken by Peterborough in the third round, 49th overall, in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, has played two games so far and has yet to register a point.
Meanwhile, Rapids forward Caleb Rich (15, 9-7-16, 20) has signed with the Halifax Mooseheads, of the QMJHL.
Wearing No. 11, the 17-year-old Callander native was held pointless in his first game in a Mooseheads uniform Oct. 26 against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, registering one shot on net.
There are, of course, a number of other NOJHL grads playing in the OHL and QMJHL including Kapuskasing native Jamey Lauzon.
Lauzon (12, 0-1-1, 24), in his second season with Baie-Comeau, of the QMJHL, played for both the Abitibi Eskimos and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners prior to signing with the Drakkar.