By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – The evolution of the Timmins Rock roster continues as the team prepares for its next exhibition contest.
Forward Bain Cunningham checked into training camp Tuesday night and didn’t look out of place skating on a line with former Abitibi Eskimo Eric Robichaud. No, a clerical error has not been found in the Timmins native’s birth certificate. Robichaud was only getting in a little extra ice time before reporting for duty with the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Nipissing University Lakers in North Bay on Monday.
Fellow forward Zachary Kercz was expected to arrive in Timmins Wednesday and skated with his new teammates for the first time at the McIntyre Arena later in day.
Meanwhile, the Timmins Rock career of goalie Matt Blattenberg came to an end before it ever got started, as his time with the team was limited to being listed as No. 1 on the program for last Saturday’s exhibition victory over the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
Blattenberg never reported to the team and Timmins Majors goalie Jaedon Giguere was actually wearing No. 1 and backing up Rock netminder Logan Ferrington during that contest.
Goalie Jack Stockdale is also expected to check into training camp this week.
Stockdale is a 17-year-old, 6-0, 170-pound, Brantford native who spent parts of the 2014-15 season with the Collingwood Ice (3, 1.00, .968), of the CIHL, and the Meaford Knights (1, 0.00, 1.000), of the GMHL.
Cunningham was showing no ill effects from an hour-and-a-half practice after the lengthy journey to Timmins earlier Tuesday.
“It wasn’t too bad,” he said.
“The first couple of minutes were a little iffy but once I got my legs going it wasn’t that bad. It was a good, fast tempo and it was nice to be our here working hard. I am looking forward to being here.”
Cunningham, who stands 6-2 and tips the scales at 208 pounds, provides the Rock with another big body up front.
“I think I can bring size and intensity to this team,” he said.
“I like to play a physical game and I enjoy playing at both ends of the ice.”
Cunningham spent the bulk of the 2014-15 season playing Midget ‘AAA’ with the Barrie Colts, but also saw limited time with the Burlington Cougars (2, 0-0-0, 0) of the OJHL.
“I think the speed of the game is going to be the biggest adjustment moving from midget hockey to Junior ‘A’ hockey,” he said.
“The size may be a factor, as well, with bigger guys throwing body checks. It will be a bit of an adjustment, but I will get used to it.”
Cunningham hopes to be able to get into at least one of the Rock’s two exhibition games against the Canadians this weekend, Friday night at the McIntyre Arena and Saturday night at the Countryside Arena in Chelmsford.
“I am looking forward to it,” he said.
“It (playing in front of large crowds in Timmins) is going to be awesome. You are really going to feel it when you are on the ice. Whenever there is a big hit or a goal, the noise level is going to go through the roof.”
Cunningham doesn’t really try to pattern his game after any particular NHL player.
“I like Jason Spezza,” he said. “He plays a nice two-way game and he has decent size. He might be a good role model to try and pattern my game after.”
After only seeing him in one practice, nobody on the Timmins Rock coaching staff was about to suggest Cunningham is the second coming of Richard Therrien, but they like what they have seen of his game so far.
“He looked great out there tonight, especially for a guy who travelled from Barrie today and got here just a couple of hours before we hoped on the ice,” said Rock goaltending coach Marc Bisson.
“He has decent size and decent speed, so I think he is going to be a great addition to our hockey club. You can never have enough size or speed in this league.”
On paper at least, Kercz — a 5-9, 165-pound right-handed shooting centre — seems to have similar size and offensive potential as fellow pivot Jordan Rendle, 5-10, 155 pounds, who also shoots right.
“Jordan has been a great addition to our hockey club and we are happy to have him, and from what I have heard about Kercz he is a similar kind of player who has a lot of speed,” Bisson said.
“He averages about a point a game, so I think he is going to bring some offence to our team, as well.”
Kercz, an Aurora native, spent parts of the 2014-15 season with the Trenton Golden Hawks (4, 1-1-2, 21), of the OJHL, Stouffville Spirit (4, 0-1-1, 6), of the OJHL, and the Dryden Ice Dogs (24, 11-15-26, 42), of the SIJHL.
The coaching staff has yet to finalize the lineup for either of this weekend’s exhibition games, but Bisson expects both Cunningham and Kercz will see action.
“We haven’t really talked lineup yet, but I believe both of those guys will be playing this weekend,” he said.
As goaltending coach, Bisson has been pleased with the play of Ferrington and Giguere in training camp and during the first two exhibition games.
“They have both looked really good night after night,” he said.
“They have been practising well and I think the games have gone fairly well. Logan played a really good game Saturday night here. We expect Logan to play a lot of games this year and to be ready but we want to bring in another great goalie to challenge Loggy to keep him playing well and working hard.”
Giguere, likely to be signed as an affiliate, is scheduled to play for the Majors again this season.
“I think it is great for Giggy to be out here with us,” Bisson said.
“The pace is a little bit quicker and the shots are a little harder, so if anything, he should have a jump start to his year with the Majors. This extra ice time and a little quicker game is definitely going to be an advantage for him.”
NOJHL NOTES — The Iroquois Falls Eskimos have acquired forwards Jacob Erwin (54, 16-13-29, 22) and Garry Mindus (51, 5-11-16, 36) from the Powassan Voodoos in exchange for defenceman Nick Grose (52, 4-33-37, 34) … The Eskimos have also traded defenceman Eric Verville (49, 1-6-7, 77) to Pickering Panthers, of the OJHL.