New Timmins forward Tyler Gilberds should bring a net-front presence to the Rock lineup, as he demonstrated here while taking up position in front of Soo Eagles goalie Carter McPhail during Saturday night’s 3-1 loss at the McIntyre Arena. On the play, Gilberds managed to position himself behind Eagles defender Kellen Tharaldson, but his teammates were not able to get any shots through for him to deflect. The Rock will host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena Tuesday night. Game time is 7 p.m. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS
By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners will invade the McIntyre Arena for the third time in 11 days Tuesday night.
No, the playoffs haven’t started, it’s simply a quirk in the schedule that has resulted in the NOJHL East Division foes facing each other so often in such a short period of time in Timmins.
And based upon the results of two most recent visits — at 5-1 Rock win on Nov. 25 and a 1-1 double-overtime tie on Nov. 29 — that is quite alright with the home team.
Tuesday’s game will feature the annual Timmins Rock Teddy Bear toss, with fans encouraged to either bring bears with them to toss on the ice, or to purchase a Timmins Rock bear for that purpose at the game.
All of the bears collected will once again be donated to North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Services for distribution to its young clients.
Nine points currently separate the third-place Gold Miners (13-12-4-2) and the fifth-place Rock (10-17-1-2) and Timmins currently has one game in hand.
A regulation victory by the home side Tuesday night could see Timmins close the gap to seven points, while a regulation loss would see it increase to 11 points.
Given the Rock’s home (9-6-0-1) and away (1-11-1-1) splits so far this season, climbing as far up the standings as possible before the end of the regular season would seem imperative.
Two members of the Rock blue-line corps — James Redmond (22, 2-3-5, 6) and Eric Paquette (27, 0-5-5, 12) — have returned to the Rock lineup since their last encounter with the Gold Miners, but defenceman Shawn Sloan (27, 1-1-2, 14) is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury after being injured in Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Lumberjacks in Hearst.
And No. 1 goalie Eric Jackson (1215:00, 8-9-1-1, 0, 2.47, .909) remains listed as day-to-day after being run over near the end of a 5-2 home-ice loss to the NOJHL-leading Voodoos on Nov. 26.
In his absence, 17-year-old Tyler Masternak (427:00, 2-4-0-1, 0, 3.09, .895) has been brilliant and he made 43 saves during the Gold Miners’ last visit to the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 29 to backstop the Rock to their 1-1 double-overtime tie.
Up front, the Rock are still missing centres Stewart Parnell (22, 9-8-17, 10), who is out with an upper-body injury, and Derek Seguin (19, 5-12-17, 26) who is recovering from a fractured jaw.
The Rock offence did get a boost on Thursday, when the club acquired forward Tyler Gilberds (28, 6-7-13, 32) from the Voodoos in exchange for a player development fee.
He made his debut in a Rock uniform, wearing No. 15, during Saturday night’s 3-1 loss to the visiting Soo Eagles.
Since he arrived in Timmins earlier in the day, Gilberds didn’t get the chance to practise with his new teammates before taking to the McIntyre Arena ice Saturday night.
“It was a good experience getting in the first game with the guys,” he said.
“At first, it is hard going out there with a bunch of new guys. You don’t really click, because of the chemistry and all that, so it was difficult in that sense, but I just had to play my own game. That’s all I had to worry about.”
Having played in the McIntyre Arena with the Voodoos six days earlier, helped him feel a little bit more comfortable in his new surroundings Saturday night.
“There was really a good atmosphere in the building when I was here with Powassan,” Gilberds said.
“The fans were really loud and you could really hear them booing us.”
The 6-2, 185-pound Georgetown, Ont., native was a lot happier to have the fans cheering him on Saturday night.
“That’s for sure,” he said.
“When we scored Saturday night, the crowd went crazy. That is a big motivating factor that can help keep us going.”
Gilberds spent the majority of his first game in a Rock uniform playing on a line with captain Wayne Mathieu and converted D-man Jared Hester.
“They are pretty good players and we moved the puck quite well,” he said.
“We got some pretty good chances out there. I felt we clicked pretty good.”
Based on his play against the Eagles on Saturday night, it appears Gilberds will have a net-front presence with the Rock.
“With a big body, I like to go to the front of the net to get scoring opportunities,” he said.
“I do have pretty good speed, too, and I like to use it in my game, as well, to beat guys wide and drive to the net.”
Gilberds is confident he can help provide a boost to the Rock’s offence, which has sputtered at times this season.
“That’s obviously the end goal,” he said.
“I just want to help the team out any way I can, but if I can get some points, that would be a plus, too.”
Gilberds was a fifth-round pick, 86th overall, of the Ottawa 67s in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection draft, after spending the 2016-17 season with the Vaughan Kings (33, 12-16-28, 64), of the GTMMHL.
“This season, for me, is all about development,” he said.
“I feel like I have to work on better conditioning, better strength and grow my body. Then, hopefully, I can go back to Ottawa next next season and make an impact in training camp.”
When it comes to NHLers he tries to pattern his game after, the Toronto Maple Leafs fan has picked two of this generations best young stars — Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews and Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid.
“The way they play the game is just phenomenal,” he said.
Gilberds enjoyed his time as a member of the Voodoos, learning from coach Beau Moyer, but he is looking forward to continuing to develop his game under the guidance of Rock bench boss Corey Beer.
“Powassan is a first-class organization,” he said.
“Things went well there, especially at the start of the season, but I guess I wasn’t part of their future plans. Hopefully, I will be part of Timmins’ future plans. It was hard, as a 16-year-old, to get ice time with them adding more veterans in Powassan.
“I am looking forward to getting the chance to play for Corey. I have talked to him a bunch on the phone, but I have not had the chance to meet him in person yet because he has been with the Canada East program.”
Based upon the success — two goals and an assist, to go along with 12 minutes in penalties — he had in four games against the Gold Miners while playing for the Voodoos, Gilberds is eager to face Kirkland Lake Tuesday night.
“I am just looking forward to going out there and playing my game and seeing how things go,” he said.
“They have a bunch of guys who like to hit, so I guess I will have to make sure I keep my head up.”
The Rock will also get a boost up front Tuesday night from the return of forward Jace Soroko (8, 3-5-8, 9), who missed the last three games due to the three-game suspension he picked up during the 5-2 loss to the Voodoos on Nov. 26.
Starting with Tuesday night’s contest, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., the Rock will play five of their next six games on home ice prior to the NOJHL’s Christmas break.
NOJHL NOTES — The Eastlink Three Stars of the Week are rookie defencemen Hayden Clark, of the Soo Eagles; Ethan Lavallee, of the Rayside-Balfour Canadians; and Steve Bellini, of the Soo Thunderbirds … The Voodoos have slipped to No. 7, from No. 5, in the CCHL’s weekly Top 20. The Carleton Place Canadians, of the CCHL, continue to hold down top spot, followed by the Thief River Falls Norskies, of the SIJHL, and the Les Cobras de Terrebonne, of the LHJAAAQ … the Lumberjacks have acquired 20-year-old goalie Matt Kustra (5.16, .869) from the Dauphin Kings, of the MJHL, in exchange for defenceman Vasily Gogolev (14, 0-3-3, 8).