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The Timmins Rock’s already potent attack is getting even stronger as the defending NOJHL champions begin to incorporate a trio of forwards into the lineup.
Ukrainian-born Pavlo Kobikov made his debut during Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Soo Thunderbirds, while Denys Pasko, who also hails from Ukraine, and Michigan product Jack Anderson are looking forward to getting their opportunity, as well.
After posing for their headshots Wednesday afternoon, the trio sat down with The Daily Press.
Kobikov, a Kharkiv product, played hockey in Italy in 2022-23, splitting the season between Valpellice Bulldogs (18, 9-8-17, 26), of Italy U19, and Valpellice Bulldogs (22, 6-3-9, 6), of Italy2.
“(Sunday) was my first time (playing) in Canada,” he said.
The 5-10, 175-pound, left-hand shot 2004-birth-year forward admitted it was a little tough for him, given he had not started training as early as some of his teammates and opponents in preparation for the 2023-24 season.
Compounding things, Sunday’s contest was Kobikov’s first game on a smaller North American ice surface, but he clearly didn’t look out of place.
“There are little differences between the rinks, but I don’t think it will be a problem,” he said.
“The game is fast and you have to make your passes faster, shoot faster, do everything faster.”
So far, Kobikov likes what he has seen of Rock hockey and the systems the team is using in defence of its NOJHL championship.
“I like everything coach (and general manager Brandon Perry) has explained to us about this kind of hockey,” he said.
“My new teammates have good skills and hockey IQ. You can see that on the ice, during the games.
“I really appreciate this opportunity to play here.
With a population of 41,788, Timmins is much smaller than Kharkiv, a city of 1,421,125 people.
“The people here greeted me really warmly,” he said, of the reception he received after arriving in the community.
“I really like it here. It is a really good place to play hockey, have fun with the guys.”
Like many of his new teammates, the prospect of helping the Rock win another NOJHL championship is part of what made Timmins an attractive location to continue his Junior ‘A’ career.
“For sure, we have to win again,” he said.
“I believe and I know that. Because we have really skilled players, we have 100 (per cent) chance this season. We look really good.”
While both Kobikov and Pasko are both Ukrainian, they did not know each other before signing with the Rock.
“I have never played with Denys, this is going to be my first time, but we speak the same language,” Kobikov said.
“It’s not going to be a problem.”
While Kobikov is in Timmins, playing hockey, his mom is in Italy and his brother remains in Ukraine.
“I played last year in Italy, which was not as far from home, but I try not to think about it,” he said.
“I like to focus on hockey.”
Unlike Kobikov, Pasko spent the 2022-23 season in North America, playing for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (52, 14-19-33, 6), of the 18U ‘AAA’ so he is more familiar with the smaller ice surface.
“It (adjusting) is not going to be too hard because after I played in Europe I played in the U.S.A.,” he said.
“So, I think I should be good.”
Pasko is a 2005-birth-year forward who stands 5-9, weighs 176 pounds and shoots left.
Timmins is a little closer in size to his home town, Kryvyi Rih, than Kobikov’s but it is still dwarfed in size by the former’s 603,904 population.
“It is a smaller city here, I was in a bigger city before, but I am here for hockey,” he said.
“I like everything here. It is a good organization and I like it.”
Pasko is equally comfortable scoring goals and setting up teammates.
“I just want to help our team,” he said.
Anderson, a 2004-birth-year forward, who stands 5-11, weighs 165 pounds and shoots right, is a Waterford, Mich., product.
“It has been pretty great, so far,” he said, when asked to describe his reaction to the City of Timmins, the Rock organization and his new teammates and the fans.
“Everybody has been pretty welcoming to me, which is good. Walking around town, or driving around seeing the city, I love the rink (McIntyre Arena) and the guys on the team are great.”
Like Kobikov and Pasko, Anderson had not played with any of his new teammates prior to signing with the Rock.
“No, not a guy on the team,” he said.
What can fans expect to see from Anderson once he plays his first game in a Rock uniform?
“I would consider myself to be a fast playmaker,” he said.
“I am definitely a pass-first kind of player, although I do think I have a good shot.
“I excel defensively, too. I think that’s a strong part of my game.”
As he builds up practice time, Anderson has had a chance to see his new squad in action a couple of times.
“Definitely, the speed has impressed me,” he said.
“Everybody skates super hard and fast, all the time. They skate at people and when they enter the (offensive) zone, they fly. It’s pretty impressive.”
Like most new Rock players, Anderson has had to make adjustments since joining the team.
“I would say skating every day (has been the biggest adjustment),” he said.
“I definitely had not been used to that back home in the (United) States. Doing a workout and skate every day is beneficial and something I look forward to.”
The addition of Kobikov, Pasko and Anderson gives the Rock 15 forwards and most NOJHL teams dress a maximum of 12 per game.
So, it remains to be seen if any or all of the trio will be in the lineup when the Rock host the Hearst Lumberjacks in the first half of a home-and-home series at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, at 7:30 p.m.
The two sides will then face off at the Claude Larose Recreation Centre on Sunday, at 4 p.m.