Timmins Rock fans have plenty to celebrate during the NOJHL’s annual Christmas break, schedule to end with a two-game road trip through the West Division on Jan. 4 and 5.
For starters, the Rock (26-5-1-1) entered the break with the fewest regulation losses in the entire league.
That clearly has not gone unnoticed by the folks who put together the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s weekly rankings, as the final list before Christmas had the Rock in eighth place — up from No. 12 the previous week.
In the NOJHL’s East Division standings, the Rock sit in second place — two points behind the Powassan Voodoos (28-6-0-0), who are ranked No. 5 on the latest CJHL Top 20 list, and one point ahead of the Hearst Lumberjacks (26-11-0-1).
That position is even better if you consider the Rock have a game in hand on the Voodoos and five on the Lumberjacks.
They have also played four games fewer than the West Division-leading Blind River Beavers (26-7-1-3), who sit at No. 19 on the CJHL’s Top 20 rankings.
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It was also announced on Monday the Rock’s leading scorer, forward Josh Dickson, is one of the NOJHL Eastlink 3 Stars of the Week.
The 19-year-old, who hails from Port Perry, picked up two points in each of the Rock’s decisions over Kirkland Lake on the weekend — 5-2 Friday night and 4-0 Saturday night.
Dickson began by dishing out two assists, including one on the game-winner Friday, then scored a pair of goals as the Rock completed the home-and-home sweep.
Dickson has already established personal bests in goals, assists and points on the year with 17, 20 and 37 respectively in just 32 contests.
Timmins also sports an 18-3-0-1 record this season when Dickson registers at least one point in a game.
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Rock coach Corey Beer was back behind the Timmins bench during those weekend games, after helping Canada East secure silver at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C.
It was the Oshawa native’s second year serving as an assistant coach on Martin Dagenais’ staff.
“It was just an incredible experience,” he said.
“Canada East has lost in the finals a few times, but never won it. Going into double overtime it was the longest final ever. For us to be able to do that was just incredible.
“The roof was about to blow off that rink when we tied it up and sent the game to OT.”
Canada East lost the gold medal game 2-1 to Russia in double overtime, after defeating the United States 2-1 in semi-final action.
They finished the round-robin portion of the tournament with a record of 1-0-2-1, good for four points — the same number accumulated by the third-place Russians (0-1-1-2).
Round-robin action saw Canada East fall 3-2 to the Russians in overtime, dump Canada West 5-1, lose 7-3 to the United States and lose 6-4 to the Czech Republic.
“Beating Canada West, that hadn’t happened in five years,” Beer said.
“Beating the U.S. hadn’t happened in seven years. To do both in the same tournament was just incredible.
“It was the youngest team Canada East has ever sent. The staff, the guys we were working with, Mark Grady, the director of operations, was just incredible and Marty Dagenais is one of the best delegators of a coaching staff I have ever seen.
“Dan Sauve on the video and Greg Leland on the back end, you couldn’t have asked for a better group.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Having served in the same position in 2018 was a definite benefit according to Beer.
“I was definitely more comfortable this year,” he said.
“Last year, being the first time there, I didn’t recognize the pace, that it was going to be that fast, with the high-end talent.
“This year, I was a little bit more comfortable with that stuff. Also, it was helpful to know what to expect from the Russians, from the U.S. We had a couple of trick plays they were used to running and all of a sudden we were able to run them.
“The speed and skill of the game is second to none. You look at some of the plays … you make a wrong forecheck on a guy and it’s a three-on-two the other way.”
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While the Rock won’t “officially” be back on the ice until Saturday, Jan. 4, when they take on the Eagles in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Sunday, Jan. 5, when they face-off against the Thunderbirds in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., players will put on their coaching caps for the annual Rock 3-On-3 Tournament at the McIntyre Arena, Thursday, Jan. 2, and Friday, Jan. 3.
There will be action in Novice, Atom and Peewee divisions this year, with title games set for 2 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.; and 3 p.m. on the final day.
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The next home game for the Rock will be on Thursday, Jan. 9, when they entertain the Cochrane Crunch at the McIntyre Arena.
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Fans looking for a good laugh after the holiday season are likely looking forward to the Timmins Rock’s fourth-annual Comedy Show with Ron James and Casey Corbin at École secondaire catholique Thériault on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m.