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Rock make pair of deadline deals

The Timmins Rock have re-acquired forward Yan Bessette, shown here in action during an NOJHL game at the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 18, from the West Division’s Espanola Paper Kings in exchange for a player development fee. Bessette was handed an eight-game suspension by the NOJHL after being assessed a match penalty following a hit on Rock forward Ethan Pool during the contest and has not play a game since the incident. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock made a pair of moves in advance of Tuesday’s Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline in hopes of winning an NOJHL championship.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock made a pair of moves in advance of Tuesday’s Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline in hopes of winning an NOJHL championship.

First, the Rock re-acquired 2003-birth-year forward Yan Bessette from the West Division’s Espanola Paper Kings in exchange for a player development fee.

The right-shooting, 6-0, 175-pound, Bourget, ON, product actually started his NOJHL career with the Rock (8, 1-3-4, 4) during the 2021-22 campaign before he was shipped to the then Express (28, 11-12-23, 18) in exchange for a player development fee.

Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry, now in his second season with the NOJHL squad, is quite familiar with Bessette’s game and what he can bring to the team in the second half of the season and what he hopes will be a long and productive playoff run.

“Yan is familiar with our organization and how we want to play, our systems and our structure,” he said.

“It should be a seamless transition for him coming back here. On top of that, he has proven he can produce in our league.

“He was having a fantastic season in Espanola and we are happy to have him back.”

This season, Bessette (20, 10-12-22, 21) was second on the Paper Kings in goals and third in points, although he missed 14 of Espanola’s games — eight of them due to a suspension he picked up after being assessed a match penalty for “attempt to injure or deliberate injury” after he ran over Rock forward Ethan Pool during a game against the Rock at the McIntyre Arena on Nov. 18.

Even though Bessette’s suspension ended on Dec. 15, he had not returned to the Paper Kings lineup since the incident.

Perry indicated he doesn’t have any concerns about the Nov. 18 incident creating any kind of friction in the dressing room.

“I know he was wanted back by his teammates,” he said.

“We were approached a few times throughout the year by guys on the team about bringing him back.

“Our guys absolutely loved him last season. He is a great guy in the locker room and it says a lot when your players are asking you to bring in an opponent.”

To make room for Bessette on the roster, the Rock have traded 2004-birth-year forward Nicholas Moore to the Lake Cowinchan Kraken, of the VIJHL, in exchange for a player development fee.

Moore, a right-shooting, 6-0, 175-pound, Campbellcroft, ON, product actually started the 2022-23 NOJHL campaign with the West Division’s Blind River Beavers (9, 3-2-5, 8) before being acquired by the Rock (16, 1-6-7, 15) in exchange for a player development fee.

After picking up five points in his first five games with the Rock, Moore’s production dropped off significantly.

“Nicholas approached us and indicated he was looking for more of an opportunity elsewhere, so we said we would look and give him his options and he decided to go out west,” Perry said.

“There was a bit of a difference of opinion about what role he should be playing between the coaching staff and him.

“He wanted more of a Top 6 role and a special teams role, but obviously we have a really good team. We have a lot of depth.

“We couldn’t provide him with those opportunities.”

Those were the only two moves the Rock made prior to what Perry describes “a quiet” CJHL trade deadline.

“It was a long two days, with a lot of time spent on the phone, seeing which players were available, but there was nothing else that made sense for us, that would significantly help our hockey club,” he said.

“We have a really tight group in our dressing room and our guys really enjoy each other, so we didn’t want to blow up with the room.

“Obviously, we have had a ton of success so far and adding Yan adds a little bit more scoring depth.

“He is a big, strong kid, who will provide us with some of that.

“Other than that, there was nothing out there, nothing. It was a quiet day. Last year was crazy, with moves left and right.”

The Rock’s East Division rivals were not overly active on trade deadline day, either.

The only move made by the Hearst Lumberjacks saw them trade the CJHL playing rights of forward Robbie Rutledge, currently with the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders, to OJHL’s Trenton Golden Hawks.

Meanwhile, the Powassan Voodoos, currently third in the East Division standings, picked up blue-liner Michael MacLean from the OJHL’s Cobourg Cougars in exchange to the CJHL playing rights to blue-liner Riley Pitt, currently with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The Cochrane Crunch, currently in fourth place, were the busiest team in the East Division in the days leading up to the deadline.

They dealt forward Trever Sanderson to the SIJHL’s Fort Frances Lakers, forward Christian Umpherville to the PJHL Delisle Chiefs and forward Cameron Frost to the MHL’s Amherst Ramblers, all for player development fees.

Neither the fifth-place French River Rapids nor the sixth-place Kirkland Lake Gold Miners made any significant moves prior to Tuesday’s deadline.

The West Division-leading Greater Sudbury Cubs acquired forward Kaden Laverdiere from the Elliot Lake Red Wings and shipped
blue-liner Carter Geoffroy to the GOJHL’s St. Catherines Falcons.

The Cubs had gotten an early start on deadline activity by acquiring blue-liner Devin Shoreman from Elliot Lake Red Wings on Thursday.

The second-place Soo Thunderbirds and third-place Blind River Beavers were both quiet, while the Soo Eagles, currently fourth in the West Division, acquired forward Hunter Friesen from the Paper Kings.

In addition to the transactions already documented, the fifth-place Paper Kings acquired the playing rights to forward Devin Mauro from the OJHL’s Markham Royals and blue-liner Brinn Burleigh from the GOJHL’s Caledon Bombers, while the Red Wings acquired forward Noah Aboflan from the Beavers and dealt forward Brodie Kearns to the PJHL’s Woodstock Navy Vets and forward Calum McGill to the SIJHL’s Sioux Lookout Bombers.

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, players are likely breathing a sigh of relief.

“It is always a stressful time for the players and myself, as well,” Perry said.

“Monday, we had a bit of a skills day and we had a bit of fun, some laughs out there (during practice). We kind of kept it light.

“Tuesday, I wasn’t on the ice, obviously, just really busy, so Marc Bisson ran practice and he said it was a really good skate.”

One of the downsides of the trade deadline is it makes it difficult for teams to deal with long-term injuries that occur after Jan. 10.

“That’s one of our problems right now,” Perry said.

“We have three injuries up front, with (Kaeden) McArthur, Pool and (Justin) Charette.

“It is tough to kind of separate the needs of the moment and looking forward . I didn’t want to make a move now because we need a player right now.

“The regular season games, while we want to win them all, it is important come playoff time we are healthy and if we are healthy we are as deep as anybody.”

Perry is hoping to have Pool (lower-body injury) back on the ice by late next week and Charette (upper-body injury) sometime next week, as well.

There is, however, no firm timeline yet for the return of McArthur (upper-body injury).

The Rock will head to Hearst for a game against the Lumberjacks at the Claude Larose Arena Friday night.

The next home game for the Rock will be on Friday, Jan. 20, when they host the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena, at 7:30 p.m.