By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The Timmins Rock’s offence got a big boost Tuesday when the NOJHL squad announced the re-signing of forward Jordan Rendle for the 2016-17 campaign.
Rendle (51, 30-40-70, 67 ) centred a line with Bain Cunningham (53, 25-33-58, 48) and Zachary Kercz (53, 26-55-81, 90), arguably the squad’s top unit during the 2015-16 season.
Training camp is still a couple of months away, but Rock coach and general manager Paul Gagne intends to give Rendle and Cunningham the opportunity to rekindle the magic they found first playing with Devin Panzeca (29, 17-10-27, 6), who was traded to the Chatham Maroons, of the GOJHL, on Jan. 8, and then Kercz.
“Those two guys (Rendle and Cunningham) deserve to play together,” Gagne said.
“They will be two-thirds of one of our top lines, for sure.”
The return of Rendle and Cunningham should provide the Rock with a little more offensive certainty heading into the new season.
“We have a good core of players coming back, so that’s going to be nice,” Gagne said.
“The leadership is there and having those guys on board is either going to bring back other guys who want to stay or new players who want to come and play here. We are going to be able to ice a pretty good lineup for this coming season.”
Rendle who wore an ‘A’ as an assistant captain during the 2015-16 campaign will serve as the Rock’s captain this season.
“He is a big leader on our team,” Gagne said.
“He is a quality player and person. At this time last year, his former coach told me, ‘as soon as he walks into the dressing room all of the players are going to love him within five minutes.’
“It is so true. He is well liked among his fellow players and with everybody he meets. He is a likeable guy. He is a smart kid and he has got great judgement. He has got drive and he is an all-around great person.”
Rendle’s contributions to the Rock were not just limited to his on-ice activities, as he was one of the most active off-ice ambassadors for the team, as well.
“I love doing stuff like that, going to schools, seeing little kids and making them smile, making them happy,” he said.
“It is inspiring when they look up to you as a role model. I can’t wait to get back to the community again.”
For his part, Rendle realizes what an honour it will be to wear the ‘C’ on his jersey this season.
“It’s a huge honour and I am extremely excited to have the chance to hopefully lead this team somewhere good,” he said.
Rendle was happy to hear Cunningham will be back with the Rock this season and is eager to see what they can accomplish in their second season with the franchise.
“Last year, me, him and Zach really found some great chemistry,” he said.
“Bain and I were together all last year right from Day 1 and I am hoping it is going to be the same thing for the upcoming year. I know that chemistry will still be there.”
It will be interesting to see who ends up skating on the right side with Rendle and Cunningham this season, taking the place of Kercz who is too old to play in the NOJHL.
Gagne said. “On the ice, they (Rendle, Cunningham and Kercz) did everything we asked for them to do.
“They produced game in and game out. They played great defensively. They killed penalties. They worked on the power play.
“Basically, they were our first line. I am not saying anything against the other line —
Tristan Salesse (43, 34-41-75, 18), Aaron Kerr (22, 17-21-38, 6) and Landen Matechuk (15, 7-15-22 , 14) — but it was just one paper, on the board.”
Given the on-ice production and ice time, it was more like the Rock had a 1A line and a 1B line than a first and second unit.
Rendle, a 5-11, 174-pound native of Surrey, B.C., will turn 20 in October. He came to the Rock from the Ridge Meadows Flames, of the PIJHL.
“He is a 200-foot player and he plays hard in every zone,” Gagne said.
“He’s great without the puck and he is coachable. He loves the game and he loves to learn. He knows where to position himself and when it comes to playing the game, he is really structured.”
And that tends to rub off on Rendle’s teammates.
“The players who play with him, they have to be structured, as well,” Gagne said.
“If they are not structured regarding our program, our set plays and their compete level they are not going to succeed.
“He plays hard every night and what I love about him, too, is that he practises just as hard as he plays.”
Rendle is proud of what the Rock were able to accomplish in their first year back in Timmins and is looking forward to building upon that success this season.
“The fans and the whole city were behind us,” he said.
“It was very inspiring and made me want to come back and play even harder. Hopefully, we will be able to draw even bigger crowds than last year.”
As successful as the Rock were on the ice in 2015-16, getting swept by the Cochrane Crunch in the second round of the playoffs still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the players.
“We have to get off to a good start this year,” Rendle said.
“We have to not only play well on the ice, but develop good chemistry off the ice, as well.
“There will be some new faces in the room, so getting off to a good start to the season is going to be huge. Then, we want to make sure we continue it all the way through Christmas. That way, when the playoffs come, we will be ready to go.
“With Bain and a few other guys coming back, we are going to take that extra step this coming year.”
Rendle is working out back home in Surrey to ensure he will be in tip-top shape when training camp rolls around in August.
“I have been training and trying to put on a few pounds, trying to stay in shape and enjoying the weather,” he said.
“Spending a little time away from the game makes you want to come back even stronger.”
Rendle will be arriving in Timmins early, to take part in the inaugural Timmins Rock Golf Tournament at Spruce Needles Golf Club on Saturday, July 30, and will also serve as a guest instructor at the Gagne Hockey Development Camp, which runs from Tuesday, Aug. 2, to Friday, Aug. 5.
He has been working on his golf game, which he describes as “average.”
“I have been working on it in the off season,” he said.
“The weather has been nice out here in B.C. and I can’t wait to take part in the tournament. It should be lots of fun.”