Rock ready to host Panthers

Rock fans will have the unique opportunity Wednesday night to see how their NOJHL squad stacks up against the GOJHL’s Pelham Panthers.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press
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The contest — scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at the McIntyre Arena — will be the second and final exhibition tilt for the Rock who skated to a 4-1 victory over the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake on Aug. 21.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have won two of their first three GOJHL exhibition contests, outscoring their opponents 14-6 in the process.

While Timmins coach Corey Beer would like to see the home side treat Rock fans to a victory, he knows that wins and losses are secondary when it comes to exhibition hockey.

“Even in the Kirkland Lake game, it was 0-0 after the first period but we really didn’t care about the score,” he said.

“We were just looking at OK, the transition wasn’t good and then all of a sudden the transition game got on track in the second period and we scored two goals because of it.

“As a staff, wins and losses in the preseason mean absolutely nothing. It is more about the execution. Are we doing things the right way? Are guys learning from their mistakes, too?

“I think some of the best teaching points come from the preseason where forechecks are kind of scrambly or break-outs aren’t clean and stuff.

“Then we start going through video but if guys can make corrections on the fly, it is only going to help them moving forward in terms of being versatile players for us.”

Beer is confident the Rock will be ready for the Panthers Wednesday night.

“Pelham had a really good playoff run last year in the Golden Horseshoe and they have some really good, high-end players.

“For us, it will be another measuring stick, having our players go out there and compete against some other really good junior players.

“It will give us a chance to reinforce some of the stuff we are working on in practice. We are pretty deep into our systems package and we want to make sure our guys are doing the right things.

“It is one thing to go out there and be talented and make plays, but if it is not within the confines of our system and how we play, it is not going to be beneficial for us long term.”

For the most part, Beer was pretty pleased with what he saw from his players during the 4-1 win over the Gold Miners in Kirkland Lake.

“The first period was a little scrambly, but that’s to be expected since it was the first Junior ‘A’ game for half our roster,” he said.

“We had four young defencemen in the lineup and it was their first experience up here. It was a little hairy at times and some of the break-out passes and the transitions had the guys trying to execute the things we are asking them to do and maybe not being used to some of the stuff we want to do.

“So, it was a little dicey in the first, but I thought Vance Meyer was incredible for us in net in the first period and kind of settled us down a bit.

“You get a big save from a goal and it doesn’t matter if it is the preseason, regular season or playoffs, it kind of brings the whole temperature of the bench down a bit.

“Then, in the second period, we really put more of an emphasis on letting things develop the right way — don’t force it. I think our transition game really took off.

“You look at some of the guys who were in on the goals, Zach Smith didn’t get credit on the scoresheet but when we did the video review it looked like he should have gotten two assists, hunting down pucks and making great passes.

“Josh Dickson and Rhys Chiddenton were the beneficiaries of those plays and that line — typically Derek Seguin is going to play in the middle with those two, but I thought Zach Smith stepped in and did a phenomenal job.

“It was his first game up here with us, so it was great to see.”

Chiddenton, who got into four regular-season games and six playoff contests with the Rock last, as a 15 year old, picked up three points during the victory in Kirkland Lake.

“It felt pretty good,” he said.

“I was able to get my feet moving. The first period was a little slow, but by the second period, I was going pretty good.”

The Campbellville, Ont., native feels the experience he got at the end of last season will be an advantage in the coming seasons.

“It has given me a big boost of confidence,” Chiddenton said.

“Obviously, I had the first-game jitters but I got over them pretty quick.”

Chiddenton enjoyed playing with Smith and Dickson, but figures he could match up well with any of his teammates given the amount of skill and speed up front on this year’s Rock roster.

“I am sure if they put me out there with any two other players we would find success in some way, shape or form,” he said.

Skill and speed, of course, are big parts of Chiddenton’s game, but he considers himself to be a well-rounded player.

“I can play a physical role, as well, and throw some bodies around,” he said.

As you might expect from a 4-1 victory, the positives far outweighed the negatives during the contest.

“There were some things we would like to correct and we have been hard at it on the video side of things the last couple of days,” Beer said.

The Rock currently have 25 players on their active roster and that number will come in handy with a number of players have departed for OHL training camps.

“Keegan McMullen (Peterborough Petes) and Owen Shier (Windsor Spitfires) left on Saturday,” Beer said.

“Rhys Chiddenton (Soo Greyhounds), Phil Caron (Sudbury Wolves) and Cameron Kosurko (Sudbury Wolves) left on Monday.”

That means the majority of the veteran players who sat out the game in Kirkland Lake will likely be in the lineup Wednesday night against the Panthers.

“Karter Renouf, Riley Robitaille, Derek Seguin and Josh Anderson will be in the lineup, for sure,” Beer said.

“Stewart Parnell, we are keeping an eye on. We don’t want to rush him back into action too quickly. He is still coming back from that upper-body issue (limited his action to three games in 2018-19).

“We are slowly easing him back in, so I don’t know if he will be in the lineup on Wednesday night.

“The other four will be back in there and we will get (No. 1 goalie) Tyler Masternak into the game. I am not sure if he will get two periods, or just the half game.

“We will give Vance the rest of it.”

Meyer went the distance in the Rock net in Kirkland Lake, but Beer expects he will play at least a period Wednesday night, as well.

After sitting out the game in Kirkland Lake, Anderson is anxious to hit the ice with his new and old teammates.

“This year’s squad is similar to the team we had last year,” he said.

“They both had a lot of speed and skill. We have a lot of veteran guys back and the new guys we have brought in have demonstrated they can definitely play at this level.”

One key difference on this year’s squad is the size of some of Anderson’s fellow blue-liners.

“It is definitely nice having some bigger D out there,” he said.

“Having a big partner out there on the ice with you might keep the other team from being quite so aggressive.”

At this stage of training camp, defensive pairings — like forward combinations — are far from being set in stone.

“In practice, we have been mixing things up with all eight D we have in camp,” Anderson said.

“Playing with different guys, they are all great and skilled. They have good feet and they move the puck well.”

Anderson, who is entering his third season in a Rock uniform, has Major Junior experience the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic, so he knows what Caron can bring to the team’s blue-line.

“It is big for our team to get another guy like him to bring more experience to our room,” he said.

“It will help our younger guys and on the ice his addition should be great.”

Other than Parnell, the Rock are relatively healthy as they get ready for Wednesday night’s contest.

“Gage Tremblay took a pretty nasty cross-check to the face against Kirkland Lake and he has got a bit of a busted up nose,” Beer said.

“Hopefully it is nothing too bad. I don’t think it is broken, but he is having some trouble breathing through it with the gauze packed in there.

“I would list him as doubtful for Wednesday.

“A couple of other guys are dealing with the bumps and bruises of training camp. We go at it pretty hard with these guys and some of them are dealing with the wear and tear.”

Wednesday’s contest will provide a number of new Rock players with the opportunity to see what it is like playing in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the McIntyre Arena.

“I always go back to when we traded for Josh Anderson two years ago,” Beer said.

“He was coming from Cobourg and I know the fan support there is solid, but he came up here and said he had never been so nervous for a game in his life with 1,000 fans in the stands hanging over top of you and cheering you on.

“It can be a bit of a different animal for some of these guys who have been playing midget hockey in rinks where there might be 25 people counting friends and family in the stands.”

NOJHL NOTES — The Rock have traded 2002-birth-year blue-liner Greg Arnburg (16, 1-4-5, 8) to the CCHL’s Navan Grads in exchange for a player development fee … The Rock, who will play 11 of their first 12 games on home ice, will open their 2019-20 NOJHL campaign at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, Sept. 6, when they host the French River Rapids in a 7 p.m. start.