The Timmins Rock crease became a little more crowded — at least temporarily — during the NOJHL’s Eastern Canada Cup Challenge break.
Well-travelled goalie Jean-Marc Brisson, who had been released by the Rayside-Balfour Canadians, has been signed to back up Rock starting netminder Tyler Masternak.
“He is obviously a guy we are familiar with,” said coach Corey Beer, noting Brisson has played against the Rock once this season after they faced him four times during the 2017-18 campaign.
“He basically stood on his head every time we played him. So, our players are familiar with him, the type of guy he is in the net.
“He should help provide some stability to be that second guy behind Tyler Masternak.
“He is a veteran guy, 19 years old, and he has been with a couple of teams in our league and that kind of experience is going to be invaluable for us in the net.”
When Brisson suits up for the first time in a Rock uniform he will be doing so with his fourth NOJHL franchise in a season and a half.
The 1999-birth-year Embrun, Ont., native has spent the entire 2018-19 campaign (432:00, 3-4-0-0, 0, 2.92, .922).
His three-team rookie tour of the NOJHL in 2017-18 saw him make stops with the French River Rapids (482:00, 2-3-0-0, 1, 3.99, .903), the Hearst Lumberjacks (85:00, 0-0-0-0, 0, 5.67 , .771) and the Canadians (398:00, 6-0-0, 1, 1.51, .950).
Despite those impressive numbers with the Canadians at the end of the regular season, Brisson struggled in limited action during the 2018 playoffs (30:00, 0-0-0-0, 1, 10.04, .762).
With the Rock, Brisson will back up Masternak (1,205:00, 14-5-1-0, 5, 2.09, .914), who leads the NOJHL in minutes played, wins and shutouts, sits second to Kirkland Lake Gold Miners goalie Gregory Brassard (842:00, 11-2-0-0, 1, 2.00, .932) in goals against average and ranks ninth in saves percentage.
Beer realizes that Brisson has had some nice runs with other teams in the NOJHL and the coach is confident he will be the ideal crease mate for Masternak.
“He is going to come in here and hopefully get more of an opportunity to solidify himself as a good goaltender for us,” he said.
“We are really excited to get him in here, absolutely.”
At 6-3 and 190 pounds, Brisson brings a slightly different physical dimension to the Rock net than Masternak (6-0, 160 pounds).
“He is a bit bigger goalie in stature,” Beer said.
“So, I think he will offer a different look. Sometimes when you have two goalies with the same kind of look and style, you don’t get much disparity between starts.
“You look what Nashville does with Pekka Rinne (6-5, 217 pounds), a tall goalie, and (Juuse) Saros (5-11, 180 pounds), a bit of an undersized guy, not saying that Masty is undersized, but Breezer is taller than him.
“It is something we are going to be excited to see here.”
Brisson is in Timmins and practised with his new teammates Thursday afternoon.
With the Rock playing two games on the road this weekend, against the Voodoos in Powassan Friday night and against the Rapids in French River Saturday night, it is possible — but not guaranteed — Brisson may see his first action in a Rock uniform.
“We want to be careful with Masty’s workload,” Beer said.
“We don’t want to overwhelm him. If not the top, he is one of the best goalies in the league.
“We will see how Breezer does in practice this week and whether he is ready or not. We also don’t want to put him in a bad situation. Is he comfortable? Is he set? Does he know how to play behind us?
“We play a lot of game-situated scenarios in practice that really help our goalies get acclimated to our system. We are going to do a bunch and see if he is comfortable and ready for that.”
Like most goaltenders his age, Brisson is a disciple of the Carey Price method of stopping pucks.
“Growing up, I was a big Carey Price fan,” he said.
“With regard to style, I just try to use my size and stay square to the puck. I like to make sure I am always battling out there. I like to take as much of the net away as I can. I use my angles to limit what the shooter has to see.”
While Brisson has bounced around the NOJHL a little bit, he is hoping he has found a home with the Rock in Timmins.
“I am getting to know my new teammates and getting settled in,” he said.
“I was brought in here to work with Tyler and hopefully we can win a Dudley Hewitt Cup championship.”
Brisson is confident he and his new creasemate will be able to work well in the Rock net.
“You always want to have a good relationship with your goalie partner,” he said.
“You always want to be happy when he is doing well and you hope he is going to be happy when you are doing well.
“It makes the job a lot easier when you have a great relationship. I have talked to him and he seems like a great guy. I am really excited to work with him.”
Becoming a goaltender came naturally to Brisson back when he strapped on his first pair of skates.
“My grandpa was a goalie and then my dad was a goalie,” he said.
“It is kind of in our bloodline and I wanted to keep it going.”
Older NOJHL fans might recall Brisson’s dad, Marco, who played for the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
The arrival of Brisson, of course, leaves the future of incumbent backup Nicholas Dicks (367:00, 2-4-0-0, 0, 3.11, .886) in doubt.
“(General manager) Kevin (Peever) is working on something and he is very hopeful it is going to get done,” Beer said.
“He has got some different irons in the fire and I think something is imminent. We want to put Nick in a good spot, too. We don’t want to just cast him off and let him be.
“We will see what transpires with regard to the possibility of moving Nick out here in the next couple of days, but he has done a good job.
“This isn’t an easy team to play for in terms of expectations. We want to be competitive every night and when your No. 1 goalie is who Tyler is, you do need somebody who can play up the same expectations night-in and night-out.
“That was kind of unfair to Nick being a first-year guy. We just don’t have the room to possibly grow that late blooming goalie in a secondary role. We just don’t have the minutes for that guy and when the consistency is not there it is tough to get him back in the net.”
While Brisson is a year older than both Masternak and Dicks, the coach stresses the team is happy with its No. 1 puck stopper and did not bring in the new goalie with any thoughts of putting extra pressure on him.
“Masty has earned the accolades of being one of the best goalies in this league,” Beer said.
“This is a move to solidify things and takes some of the wear and tear off Masty down the stretch in what is going to be a busy second half of the season.
“We are looking for Breezer to come in, play good minutes and get wins, give us chances to win in games we don’t deserve to be in more than anything.”