Rock look to negotiate Rapids

The Timmins Rock have acquired 19-year-old forward Nicholas Frederick from the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings in exchange for a player development fee. Frederick is expected to make his Timmins debut when the Rock host the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena on Sunday, at 3 p.m. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The Timmins Rock will be looking to continue the strong roll that has seen them build a 5-0-1-0 record to start the 2021-22 NOJHL season when they welcome the French River Rapids to the McInytre Arena Sunday afternoon.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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And fans might get an opportunity to see forward Nicholas Frederick (1, 1-0-1, 0), who has been acquired from the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings in exchange for a player development fee, make his Rock debut.

The 19-year-old left-shot centre, who stands 5-11 and weighs 160 pounds, hails from North Vancouver, B.C.

“We just wanted to bring in some veteran presence, to kind of bring up our compete level in practice and in games,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“Watching video on him, he is a kid whose motor is always going. He competes extremely hard.”

That was clearly evident during the Rock’s practice at the McIntyre Arena on Thursday.

“If you speak to most of our guys, they would say the same thing,” Perry said.

“He is the ultimate competitor and that is what we wanted to bring in here. He is going to put pressure on some of our guys who are in the lineup right now.

“It will prevent guys from becoming complacent or feeling safe. Guys have got to earn their spots in our lineup.”

With the addition of Frederick, the Rock now have 15 forwards on the roster, although Henry Brock and Eric Barnard are currently out with injuries.

And it maxes out the team’s overall roster at 25 players.

“We are allowed to carry 25 players all year this season,” Perry said.

“It is a new rule they implemented. There is no cut-down date this year.”

The coach indicated Brock, who missed Tuesday’s 9-2 win over the Cochrane Crunch, is out with an upper-body injury.

“He is really stiff, so he is not close,” Perry said.

Meanwhile, it is hoped Barnard (upper-body injury), who has yet to suit up for a game this season, will be able to begin pratising with the Rock around Oct. 15.

“We are going to be excited to get him in the lineup,” Perry said.

“It sucks he has missed this much time. He is a very, very good young player.”

The Timmins Rock will be without the services of 16-year-old blue-liner Aiden Farr, shown here in action during an NOJHL game against the Hearst Lumberjacks at the McIntyre Arena on Sept. 19, for eight weeks. Farr suffered an upper-body injury during the Rock’s 9-2 win over the Crunch on Tuesday. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

On the back end, the Rock will be without blue-liners Aiden Farr and Chase Longhurst for an extended period of time, leaving them with just five healthy D-men on the roster.

“It’s an eight-week prognosis,” Perry said, referring to the amount of time Farr will miss after leaving Tuesday’s contest with a serious upper-body injury late in the first period.

Meanwhile, Longhurst (upper-body injury) appeared to have dodged a serious upper-body injury when he was able to practise for a week after getting nicked in a game against Hearst on Sept. 19, but further examination resulted in him being sidelined for four to five weeks.

“So, we will use a Timmins Majors affiliate on the back end on Sunday and then look to bring a guy in,” Perry said.

“If that doesn’t work out, we are fully confident in those guys with the Majors coming in and giving us good minutes, Ray Durocher and Tucker McConnell-Fritz.”

Sunday’s contest will be the Rapids’ first visit to the McIntyre Arena since Jan. 19, 2020, when they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rock, and the first meeting of the two squads since Feb. 15, 2020, a 6-1 Timmins win in French River.

The rosters of both squads have changed significantly since either of those encounters.

From a Rock perspective, only Tyler Schwindt (6, 6-2-8, 8) and fellow forwards Tyler Gilberds (6, 2-3-5, 4) and Riley Brousseau (6, 3-6-9, 4) remain in the maroon, gold and white.

And Schwindt is now the captain of the Rock, while Brousseau has switched to No. 23 from the No. 16 jersey he wore in those days.

Meanwhile, the Rapids have four players — forwards Levi Siau (1, 1-0-1, 0) and Cooper Bowman (5, 5-3-8, 0), as well as blue-liners Griffin Simpson (5, 2-6-8, 4) and Brandon Hass (5, 0-6-6, 0) — who were with French River during the 2019-20 campaign.

A look at the NOJHL East Division standings shows the Rock (5-0-1-0) hold down second place, trailing only the Powassan Voodoos (6-0-1-0) and holding a game in hand on their rivals.

The Rapids (4-2-0-0) sit in fourth place, one point behind the Hearst Lumberjacks (4-1-1-0) and seven points up on the Cochrane Crunch (0-5-1-0) and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (0-5-0-1).

Perry has had a chance to check out a number of Rapids’ games on video and came away impressed.

“They are an organization that has taken some steps in the right direction,” he said.

“They are winning games right now and they are no pushovers. These guys can score. They are quick, they are skilled. We are certainly not going to overlook them.

“These games are super important. Winning games early on and winning games against teams below you in the standings could be the difference come April between playing Hearst or Powassan in the first round (of the playoffs).

“If you are in the two-three spot, your first-round matchup is going to be Hearst or Powassan.

“That’s why I think it is super important for us to be prepared.”

The coach doesn’t feel the scarcity of players on each squad who have faced their opponent will have any impact on the game’s intensity level.

“They are a young, hungry team and they have been playing well,” Perry said.

“They have a ton of confidence and our team is as hungry as they come.

“We have a special group. We have a deep group. We like to win and we like to compete.

“So, when you mix our two teams together, two hungry teams that want to win games, despite history or rivalries or whatever the case may be, there is always the potential to have animosity.

“Two teams on the up, guys get competitive and they want to win.”

Given not every NOJHL squad has played the same number of games and it is still early in the 2021-22 season, comparative stats may not be as accurate as we would like, but as of Thursday the Rock (31) had scored more goals than any team other than the Powassan Voodoos (34) and their goal differential (16, goals for minus goals against) was the best in the NOJHL.

The Rock have eight players — Brousseau (6, 3-6-9, 4), blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz (6, 2-7-9, 2), Nicolas Pigeon (6, 1-8-9, 2), Schwindt (6, 6-2-8, 8), blue-liner Bode Dunford (6, 3-5-8, 8), Christopher Engelbert (6, 3-3-6, 0), Nolan Ring (6, 3-2-5, 0) and Gilberds (6, 2-3-5, 4) — who have cracked the five-point barrier.

And Liam Wells (6, 3-1-4, 0) is not far off that pace.

The Rapids 22 goals on the season ranks seventh best in the NOJHL, as does their goal differential (three).

To this point in the campaign, six members of the Rapids — Bowman (5, 5-3-8, 0), Simpson (5, 2-6-8, 4), Dominik Godin (5, 3-4-7, 0), Chase Lefebvre (4, 1-5-6, 2), Hass (5, 0, 6, 6, 0) and Leo Chambers (5, 3-2-5, 2) — have exceeded the five point mark.

Defensively, only the Soo Thunderbirds (13) and the Lumberjacks (14) have allowed fewer goals than the Rock (15) to this point in the campaign, with all three squads having played six games.

Gavin McCarthy (305:00, 4-0-1-0, 0, 2.56, .877) has seen the lion’s share of work between the pipes for the Rock, with Konrad Simard (60:00, 1-0-0-0, 0, 2.00, .889) serving as his backup.

Having surrendered 19 goals to this point in the season, the Rapids are tied with the Voodoos for the fifth-fewest tallies allowed.

The Rapids netminders have split the crease relatively even to this point, with Cole Sheffield (177:00, 1-2-0-0, 0, 4.40, .898) getting slightly more work than Hayden Williamson (130:00, 2-0-0-0, 0, 2.31, .935).

Brady Dyer has yet to see any action.

Special teams can be an important factor in any hockey game and little separates the Rock and the Rapids when it comes to power play and penalty killing.

With the man advantage, the Rapids have the third-best efficiency rating (34.6 per cent) in the NOJHL, while the Rock are right behind (33.3 per cent) in fourth place.

When it comes to the PK, neither squad has excelled to this point in the season, with the Rock (72.7 per cent) ranked 10th and the Rapids (71.4 per cent) 11th.

Only the Gold Miners (66.7 per cent) have been worse.

So, discipline might be one of the keys to success for both teams Sunday afternoon.

And to this point in the campaign, the Rapids (28 minutes) are the least penalized team in the NOJHL, with the Rock (44 minutes) having taken the second-fewest penalties.

“It doesn’t matter who you are playing,” Perry said.

“You want to be a disciplined team. If you give any team in this league enough opportunities on the power play, they are going to find a way to get one (goal).

“Our PK has been struggling this year and it is something we have worked on quite a bit and watched a lot of video.

“We have spoken to our guys about making the necessary adjustments.

“A good penalty kill can give you just as much momentum as a good power play.”