Rock set to open Centennial Cup against MHL’s Mariners

Blue-liner Kenyon Nyman is one of six members of the Timmins Rock who are making a return visit to the Centennial Cup, which gets underway in Portage la Prairie, Man., on Thursday. Nyman and four of his Rock teammates were part of the SIJHL-champion Red Lake Miners squad that took part in the 2022 event, while a sixth Rock player, blue-liner Kyle Trottier, was part of the NOJHL-champion Soo Thunderbirds squad that advanced to the event. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

The puck will drop on the Timmins Rock’s quest for a Centennial Cup championship at Stride Place when they take on the Maritime Hockey League champion Yarmouth Mariners on Friday, at 4:30p.m. EDT.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, MAN. — The puck will drop on the Timmins Rock’s quest for a Centennial Cup championship at Stride Place when they take on the Maritime Hockey League champion Yarmouth Mariners on Friday, at 4:30p.m. EDT.

It will be Day 2 of the 2023 Centennial Cup tournament, which kicks off on Thursday with the Superior International Junior Hockey League champion Kam River Fighting Walleye doing battle with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Battlefords North Stars, at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

The NOJHL-champion Rock took a bus to Toronto on Monday, flew to Winnipeg Tuesday morning and then took another bus to Portage la Prairie, arriving in the tournament host city at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

“Tuesday, with the travel, it was a big rest day for us, but last night we did video,” said Rock coach and general manager Brandon Perry.

“This morning, we had breakfast and we are going to do video 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT) and then we will practice from 6-7 p.m. (7-8 p.m.) on the big ice.”

Stride Place had two ice pads, which will allow teams to practice on the smaller while the games are being played on the larger surface.

“Thursday, we will have a 12:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. EDT) practice, then video and the opening ceremony.”

Friday’s clash with the Rock will be the second game of the tournament for the Mariners, who open with a contest against the Alberta Junior Hockey League champion Brooks Bandits on Thursday, at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

“We will check that one out, for sure, because it is Yarmouth and Brooks, two of our opponents this week,” Perry said.

“It will be nice to see them live.”

Thursday’s third, and final contest, will see the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Collingwood Blues take on the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Steinbach Pistons, at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

The roster of clubs seeking the 2023 Centennial Cup championship also includes the Central Canada Hockey League’s Ottawa Jr. Senators, Ligue de Hockey Junior AAA du Québec’s Cobras de Terrebonne and the host Portage Terriers, of the MJHL.

Given the 10 teams are representing nine different Canadian Junior Hockey League loops, it should come as no surprise the Rock have only faced one of those squads.

They dropped a 5-0 decision to the Blues at the 2022 Cottage Cup pre-season tournament.

“Video is obviously huge in anything we do,” Perry said, agreeing the sessions are even more important given they had not had a chance to see all but the Blues in person before arriving in Portage la Prairie.

“I am sure that’s the same across the board for all the teams here. You have to study your opponent and know what they like to do, how they do things and put a game plan together for the best ways to try and expose that.

“That’s what we have been doing for Yarmouth. We will take it one opponent at a time and dive into a lot of video.

“We had a great video session Tuesday night and we will have a couple of more before we get going but seeing them live and using the footage from that game will serve us best.”

The squads participating in the 2023 Centennial Cup are divided into two pools for the tournament, with the Rock joined by the Mariners, Bandits, Cobras and Jr. Senators in Group A and the Fighting Walleye, Blues, North Stars, Pistons and Terriers competing in Group B.

Game 2 of the tournament for the Rock is scheduled from Sunday, at 4:30 p.m. EDT, when they will tangle with the Cobras.

On Monday, at 4:30 p.m. EDT, the Rock will take on the Bandits, before closing out round-robin action against the Jr. Senators on Wednesday, at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

The two quarterfinal contests will be played on Friday, May 19, at 4:30 p.m. EDT and 8:30 p.m. EDT, with the two semifinal games set for Saturday, May 20, 4:30 p.m. EDT and 8:30 p.m. EDT.

TSN will televise the 2023 Centennial Cup championship game on Sunday, May 21, at 4 p.m. EDT.

Rock fans unable to make the 1,552.7-kilometre trek to Portage la Prairie, can watch every game at the Centennial Cup through pay-per-view on the tournament’s website.

The Mariners earned the right to represent the MHL at the 2023 Centennial Cup tournament by completing an impressive 12-0-0 playoff run.

In fact, the Mariners have not tasted defeat since suffering a 6-5 overtime setback at the hands of the Truro Bearcats at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre on Feb. 27.

The Mariners had little trouble putting the puck in the net during their 12-game MHL playoff run, with nine players — Reilly Mayne (12, 9-9-18, 12), Ryan Semple (12, 7-11-18, 0), Jerome Gilbert (12, 5-10-15, 2), blue-liner Ben Roode (12, 3-11-14, 2), Reid Vos (12, 5-7-12, 2), Michael Marquez (12, 3-9-12, 6), blue-liner Franco Canevari (12, 5-6-11, 6), Nathan Kelly (10, 4-6-10, 0) and blue-liner Tamy Ettaqi (12, 2-8-10, 10) — cracking the 10-point barrier in the playoffs.

And sniper Andrew Stuckless (12, 5-3-8, 2) wasn’t far off that pace.

Timmins Rock forward Brady Harroun, who led the NOJHL champions in goals and tied with linemate Nicolas Pigeon for the team lead in points, will be making a return visit to the Centennial Cup when the puck drops on play at the 2023 event in Portage la Prairie, Man., on Thursday. Harroun is one of five Rock players who attended last year’s event as members of the SIJHL-champion Red Lake Miners, while a sixth, blue-liner Kyle Trottier, was part of the Soo Thunderbirds squad that represented the NOJHL. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

Meanwhile, the Rock, who went 12-3-0 in their 15 playoff contests, displayed some firepower of their own.

They also had nine players ­— Brady Harroun (15, 9-7-16, 12), Nicolas Pigeon (14, 5-11-16, 8), blue-liner Felix Cadieux-Fredette (15, 2-13-15, 12), Nolan Ring (11, 4-10-14, 8), Justin Charette (15, 3-10-13, 0), Lucas Piekarczyk (11, 4-8-12, 10), Nicholas Frederick (15, 5-6-11, 10), Ethan Pool (10, 8-2-10, 6), Kenyon Nyman (15, 1-9-10, 6) — who hit that mark in the playoffs.

And that’s not counting playoff MVP Harry Clark (9, 4-4-8, 11), who averaged close to a point a game, and regular-season grinder Lucas Lowe (15, 5-2-7, 2), who added some offensive touch to his game once the post season rolled around.

The Mariners were just as impressive defensively in the playoffs, allowing just 24 goals in their 12 games.

Joey Lovullo (601:00, 10-0-0, 2, 1.80, .939) was clearly the Mariners’ No. 1 option throughout their playoff run, but Keegan Warren (122:00, 2-0-0, 2.96, .910) was solid when called upon, as well.

While the Mariners allowed exactly two goals per game in their 12 playoff contests, the Rock gave up 34 goals in 15 playoff dates, just above that average.

The Rock crease was a little more evenly divided, but Patrick Boivin (600:00, 7-2-1,2, 2.10, .916) got more starts than Jacob Brown (300:00, 5-0-0, 1, 2.20, .910), who won all of his assignments.

While statistically the Rock and the Mariners appear quite similar, Perry doesn’t see it that way.

“No, not really,” he said, when asked if he has seen any similarities while studying the Rock’s first opponent.

“They are big and they are strong and they are structured, obviously, with great goaltending.

“We are those things, as well, probably not as big as them, but in my opinion I think we are a lot faster and we are going to play a lot faster than they probably have been used to, so I think that’s our advantage right there.

“Not only are we fast individually, but we play fast and we are structured, as well, and we have great goaltending.”

The coach did acknowledge statistically all 10 teams taking part in the 2023 Centennial Cup seem similar — on paper.

“You look at the statistics and the records of all the teams here and they are all similar,” Perry said.

“Everybody here is a champion, so you know that right off the bat about them. They have the depth, they have the talent, they have the character and they know what it takes to win in pressure moments.

“Obviously, it is our job to study the video and make sure we are as prepared as possible.”

The Rock have five players — Harroun, Piekarczyk, Pool, Nyman and
blue-liner Brandon Rossetti (13, 3-4-7, 10) — who took part in the 2022 Centennial Cup with the SIJHL’s Red Lake Miners, as well as blue-liner Kyle Trottier (15, 0-4-4, 0), who was part of the Soo Thunderbirds squad that represented the NOJHL.

“Any and all experience is certainly welcome in our locker room and those six guys have been through it first hand,” Perry said.

“I am thinking they are going to want to do things a little differently this time, in terms of preparation and play.”

Both the Miners and the Thunderbirds went 0-4-0 during the 2022 event.

Perry notes the Rock’s focus right now is squarely on Yarmouth right now.

“That’s the first challenge,” he said.

“Once we take care of business there, we will move on to the next one (challenge).

Certainly, the old adage, “taking things one shift at a time,” seems more appropriate than ever.

“It is human nature to see Brooks Bandits on the schedule, just off what they have done in the last five or six years, maybe longer, they have kind of set the bar in Canada as Junior hockey goes, but you can’t overlook anybody,” Perry said.

“You fall asleep for a minute in one of these games and that could potentially be the difference between whether you win or lose, so all focus is on Yarmouth in Game 1.

“We need to get off to a good start here. Obviously, our goal is to win Game 1 and if we do that I think the confidence of our group will be huge.”

The Rock have not seen any game action since they eliminated on the Soo Thunderbirds 4-2 in the NOJHL final on April 30, so some of the “bumps and bruises” associated with playoff hockey have had time to heal.

“This little break has been nice for us,” Perry said.

“Obviously, guys aren’t going to be 100 per cent but they are getting pretty close.

“Some of the guys who have been injured are really big pieces for us, so the healthier they can get the more I like our chances.”