The Timmins Rock will be looking to strengthen their hold on top spot in the NOJHL’s overall standings when they entertain a pair of East Division rivals at the McIntyre Arena this weekend.
And even though the French River Rapids (11-24-4-1) and the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners (10-24-5-1) hold down the final two spots in the division, the Rock (30-6-1-1) can’t afford to underestimate either squad.
Only one of the two will advance to the playoffs when the NOJHL’s regular-season schedule comes to a conclusion.
That makes the Gold Miners, whom the Rock will face Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon’s opponent, the Rapids, very dangerous.
Of the two squads, the Rapids (4-5-1-0) head into the weekend enjoying the most recent success.
The Gold Miners (2-7-1-0) have the second-worst record during the past 10 game-stretch in the entire NOJHL.
Even after making a coaching change mid-season that has seen Kyle Smart take over as interim coach and general manager, the squad’s fortunes have not improved significantly.
Offence — or the lack of it — continues to be an issue for the Gold Miners.
There are no Kirkland Lake skaters among the Top 20 scorers in the NOJHL this season and they rank third last in the league in terms of goals scored, with 104.
Only Gold Miners — Max Newnam (40, 9-19-28, 59), Cameron Neaylon (37, 9-17-26, 32) and Connor Van Weelie (40, 17-6-23, 6) have cracked the 20-point mark this season.
It is a similar story in terms of defence, with the Gold Miners sitting 10th in the 12-team league after allowing 161 goals.
The Gold Miners two netminders — Kyle McNair (1,164:00, 5-10-3-1, 0, 3.56, .905) and Kohl Reddy (1,248:00, 5-14-2-0, 2, 4.23, .890) — were both solid through the early part of the season, but their numbers have begun to inflate as their club’s losses have continued to pile up.
Sunday’s opponent, the Rapids, have even more issues putting the puck in the net and they sit in 11th place in the league, with just 89 goals to their credit.
Like the Gold Miners, they have no players among the NOJHL’s Top 20 snipers and just three players — Will Frustaglio (32, 10-16-26, 21), Ryan Smith (26, 9-17-26, 20) and Ty Chambers (39, 11-11-22, 14) — with 20 or more points on the season.
In addition, Levi Siau (10, 3-7-10, 2) has averaged a point a game in limited action and blue-liner Connor Loft (12, 3-6-9, 8) — who was a member of the Rock for part of one day — has come close to hitting that mark.
With 154 goals allowed on the season, the Rapids have the ninth-best defensive record in the NOJHL.
Sebastian Woods (1,163:00, 5-14-0-0, 0, 4.02, .900), has made the bulk of the starts in net for the Rapids this season, but Chase Johnson (594:00, 4-4-1-1, 0, 2.32, .944) — who turned in a 58-save performance against the Rock at the McIntyre Arena back on Nov. 3 — has produced better results.
Ben Montgomery (659:00, 2-6-3-0, 0, 4.37, .886) has also seen time between the pipes for the Rapids.
Meanwhile, the Rock sport the top-ranked defence in the NOJHL, having allowed just 68 goals on the season — nearly 30 fewer than the second-ranked Powassan Voodoos.
Not surprisingly, the Rock duo of Vance Meyer (957:00, 12-4-0-0, 4, 1.57, .928) and Tyler Masternak (1,328:00, 18-2-1-1, 5, 1.85, .927) rank one-two in terms of goals against average.
Currently, with 157 goals, the Rank have the fifth-highest offensive output in the NOJHL.
That is a little misleading, however, given the Rock have played three or four games fewer than all of the teams ahead of them other than the Voodoos, who lead the NOJHL with 179 goals to this point in the season.
Two members of the Rock — Josh Dickson (37, 18-23-41, 32) and captain Derek Seguin (32, 19-19-38, 16) — sit among the NOJHL’s Top 20 scorers.
In addition, seven other members of the Rock — blue-liner Josh Anderson (37, 9-26, 35, 42), Stewart Parnell (32, 15-16-31, 19), Karter Renouf (37, 14-14-28, 34), Phil Caron (21, 11-15-26, 8), Riley Robitaille (38, 6-19-25, 35), Tyler Gilberds (37, 13-9-22, 38) and Tyler Schwindt (37, 12-10-22, 14 — have accumulated at least 20 points so far this season.
And David Laroche (20, 8-11-19, 11), who is just a point shy of joining that club, is averaging close to a point per game.
The same can be said for Gabinien Kioki (9, 6-3-9, 6), whom the Rock acquired from the CCHL’s Rockland Nationals after he had started the 2019-20 campaign with the Voodoos.
NOJHL NOTES — Parnell was named one of the NOJHL Eastlink 3 Stars of the Week, joining Blind River Beavers forward Caleb Serre and Cochrane Crunch forward Matthew Minichiello … As head coach of Team East, Rock bench boss Corey Beer was on the losing end of a 6-4 during the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Prospect Game in Hamilton on Tuesday … Tickets remain on sale for the Timmins Rock’s fourth-annual Comedy Show with Ron James and Casey Corbin on Thursday, Feb. 13 at Ecole secondaire catholique Theriault, starting at 7:30 p.m. … Saturday’s game at the McIntyre Arena against the Gold Miners will get underway at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s contest against the Rapids is schedule to start at 2 p.m.