THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS Timmins Rock blue-liner Gregory Arnburg, shown here getting off a pass before Kirkland Lake Gold Miners forward Sam Ellwood arrives on the scene, made his debut in a Timmins Northstars uniform on Jan. 15 when the Rock and the Gold Miners wore their throwback jerseys. Arnburg and the Rock will host the NOJHL’s East Division-leading Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7 p.m.
Defenceman Gregory Arnburg’s NOJHL career started on home ice against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners back on Jan. 15.
And the 1999-birth-year Oshawa native, the newest member of the Rock, is looking forward to a rematch against the East Division leaders at the McIntyre Arena Friday night.
Arnburg (5, 0-0-0, 2) joined the Rock at a point in their schedule when they had just one game left against a West Division opponent (a 3-2 loss the Canadians in Rayside-Balfour on Jan. 17), so he has been getting a crash course on some of Timmins’ most heated East Division rivalries.
Back-to-back games against the Crunch — a 4-2 win in Cochrane Friday night and a 4-3 victory on home ice Sunday night left little doubt as to which Each Division squad is the Rock’s biggest rival.
“I think my first shift, I went out and got a glove to the face against those guys,” Arnburg said.
“We just have to stick to our game, which is a speed game, when we play them.
“We also have to make sure we don’t get involved in all of the stuff, the white noise going on after the whistles and that.
“The rivalry is there, so sure.”
Early in the 2018-19 NOJHL campaign, the Gold Miners had the Rock’s number, but that hasn’t really be the case in the past couple of games.
The Rock lost four of their first seven meetings with the Gold Miners — 6-3 at home on Sept. 9, 5-1 on the road Sept. 13, 6-1 on the road Sept. 16 and 5-0 at home on Oct. 3, but they have taken two of the past three meetings — 5-2 at home on Oct. 17 and 6-3 at home on Jan. 15, while losing the third 4-3 on the road Nov. 29.
With the first-place Gold Miners (28-13-2-1) currently sitting just six points ahead of the fourth-place Rock (25-15-3-0) in the East Division standings, every point will be critical in the final three meetings of the squad — Friday night at the McIntyre Arena, Feb. 28 and March 2 at the Joe Mavrinac Community Centre in Kirkland Lake.
One player the Rock will not have to contend with during Friday night’s match-up with the Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena is Kirkland Lake sniper Gregory Trudeau-Paquet (39, 26-23-49, 27), who is currently serving a 10-game suspension for a deliberate attempt to injure match penalty he picked up during Sunday’s 6-2 home-ice loss to the Hearst Lumberjacks.
In six games against the Rock this season, Trudeau-Paquet has scored five goals and added four assists.
As hot as the Gold Miners were in the first half of the season, they have cooled off a bit as of late, losing two-straight games and going 5-3-1-1 in their past 10 games.
With Trudeau-Paquet out of the lineup, only two other Gold Miners — Vinny DeSanctis (39, 12-18-30, 28) and Max Newnam (21, 12-8-20, 60) — have scored in double figures this season and Newnam was traded to the Powassan Voodoos back on Nov. 28.
Lest you start feeling sorry for the Gold Miners, it should be noted Matthew Brassard (9, 6-3-9, 0) has been on fire since being re-acquired from the OJHL’s Mississauga Chargers on Jan. 8.
Oh, and they also have seven other players with at least eight goals, so offence isn’t really an issue for the boys in blue.
In fact, their 165 goals (in 44 games) has them tied for second most in the NOJHL this season with the Blind River Beavers (in 43 games), the Lumberjacks (in 45 games) and the Crunch (in 46 games).
By comparison, the Rock, with 143 goals on the season, have the ninth-most goals in the league.
They do, however, have four players — Derek Seguin (39, 26-25-51, 40), Keegan McMullen (41, 12-11-23, 20), Matt Capisciolto (40, 11-20-31, 20) and Josh Dickson (39, 11-12-23, 28) — who have cracked the 10-goal barrier this season.
And let’s not forget the Rock, who have allowed an NOJHL-best 113 goals this season, have a distinct advantage on the defensive side of the puck.
The play of 2000-birth-year netminder Tyler Masternak (1,977, 22-9-2-0, 6, 2.31, .915), also an Oshawa native, is a big reason for that success, of course.
Now in his second season with the Rock, Masternak leads the NOJHL in minutes played, wins, shutouts and goals against average.
In other words, every key goaltending stat except one: Saves percentage, where his .915 ranks 11th, in large part because his teammates playing in front of him do such a good job limiting the number of shots he has to face.
For the fourth time this season, Masternak — who also has a pair of NOJHL Goalie of the Month honours on his resume — was named one of the Eastlink TV 3 Stars of the Week.
Masternak’s creasemate, Jean-Marc Brisson (678:00, 4-6-1-1, 0, 3.18, .908), who started the year with the Canadians, has been sharp on the occasions when he has been called upon to man the net.
The Gold Miners netminding duo — Gregory Brassard (1326:00, 15-4-1-0, 1, 2.49, .916) and Dawson Rodin (1,275, 13-8-1-1, 1, 2.54, .923) — has given Kirkland Lake solid goaltending, as well.
The 124 goals Kirkland Lake has given up this season ranks them third in the NOJHL in that category, behind only the Rock and the Soo Thunderbirds (119 goals against).
Now five games into his NOJHL career, Arnburg is enjoying life on the Timmins Rock blue-line.
“The guys are great,” he said.
“We have a good group of guys and coach Beersy (Cory Beer) really stresses the things that are going to make a difference for our team. We are a team first. We don’t have any top-end flashy guys.”
Really, what about that fella Seguin, tied for second in the NOJHL in goals and seventh in points, just back from the CJHL Prospects Game?
He is kind of flashy, isn’t he?
“Oh yeah, Segs is definitely a top-end guy,” Arnburg quickly corrected himself.
“He is the catalyst for our team. We love following that guy. I will go into battle with him, or to war with him anytime. He is a great kid, on and off the ice.”
For the most part, Arnburg has been paired with one of the Rock’s two 2002-birth-year defenders, Carson Burlington, (Owen Shier is the other).
The smooth skating Burlington (34, 1-2-3, 22) has not exactly put up big offensive numbers this season, but he has shown flashes of potential.
“Goldilocks is a great guy,” Arnbur said, of his young defence partner, who like Shier turned 17 on Monday.
“His age definitely doesn’t show out there on the ice. He is very calm out there with the puck and he makes it easy for me to play with him.
“We feed off each other and try to keep things simple, just do the best for our team. We are definitely gelling together.”
With Junior ‘A’ experience under his belt from his days with the OJHL’s Lindsay Muskies, Arnburg is looking forward to helping solidify an already strong Rock blue-line.
“I am not coming in here and trying to do everything,” he said.
“We have some great guys and they have been help me out, getting up to speed on the systems.
“I come in here with size (6-0, 180 pounds) and physicality. I like to stick up for my teammates and have a voice in the room.
“I know what it is like to play against top teams, to try to shut them down, keep things simple, nothing flashy, just work my butt off, for sure.”
Growing up, Arnburg tried to pattern his game after the play of fellow right-shooting blue-liner Shea Weber, now of the Montreal Canadiens.
“Not only was he my favourite player growing up, now he is on my favourite team, the Montreal Canadiens,” he said.
“I just like how gritty he is and the type of leader he is, as well. He has got a big voice in the room. He has got a letter. He is the captain, not that that matters at all. You can always have a voice without having a letter.
“He doesn’t make many mistakes out there, so he is always on against the other team’s big players.
Being a member of the “Oshawa mafia” and growing up in the heart of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ backyard, how did Arnburg become a Montreal Canadiens fan?
“It was kind of passed down, from generation to generation,” he said.
“My grandpa is from Nova Scotia, so my dad is a Habs fan and I just grew to love them. I watch them all the time and I can’t help but love them.”
Given that Beer is the second-biggest Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan in Timmins, Arnburg just might find himself playing goal without any equipment if his coach learns about his love of the Habs.
“Beersy is a great guy,” Arnburg said.
“I have played for him in the summer with Twist Whitby. I have nothing but good things to say about him. He is an unreal coach and I love learning from him. Every day I come to the rink just looking forward to it.”
Beer, who also hails from Arnburg’s home town, isn’t the only member of the Rock with an Oshawa connection.
Both Masternak and forward Tyler Hutchinson grew up in the community and fellow blue-liner Will Caston hails from nearby Whitby.
“It is always nice when you come in to see some familiar faces,” he said.
“It makes things a lot easier. You get to talk to the guys about some common memories, the good times in the ’Shawa.
“There are a handful of guys here who have made it easy to come in and hit the ground running. It is a comfortable environment, for use.
“Looking forward to a good playoff push with the boys and going on a run.”
Friday’s game against the Gold Miners is schedule to get underway at 7 p.m.