By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Three more Timmins Rock graduates have announced commitments to play university hockey in the United States.
Rock starting goalie Albert Rogers, who was acquired from the French River Rapids in exchange for forward Tyler Planetta in a Nov. 17 NOJHL transaction, will join the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Big Red Cardinal.
The Big Red Cardinal play out of the NCAA Division III’s Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“Albert brought a real sense of stability to the team,” said Rock assistant coach James Daschuk.
“He has a real calm demeanor on the ice. The guys had confidence playing in front of him. If we weren’t having our best game, he was the type of guy who could steal a game for us, make that big save when we really needed that big save.
“In my opinion, he is the kind of guy you want to build a team around. After seeing him in action, you get that sense.”
The 6-0, 181 pound, North Haven, CT, native appeared in eight of the Rock’s 10 playoff games, posting a record of 4-4-0, with a 4.10 goals against average and a .888 saves percentage.
“He was crucial for us, especially during the first round against Cochrane (the Rock won the best-of-seven East Division semifinal series 4-2),” Daschuk said.
“His confidence really showed.”
An ultra-competitive puck stopper, Rogers’ work ethic in practice was almost legendary.
“His net was usually pretty empty at practice,” Daschuk said.
“He was always making a second effort, third effort or even fourth effort. At least three or four times every practice you would hear a loud cheer at one end and you would look and Albert would be on his back and you could tell he just made big save on a guy on the fourth rebound.”
During the regulation season, Rogers (16-8-1, 1, 3.15, .911) quickly established himself as the Rock’s No. 1 puck stopper.
He started the season with the Rapids (1-7-1, 0, 4.95, .902), and posted some respectable numbers despite playing on a squad that struggled to find success on the ice.
One of Rogers teammates, blue-liner Patrick Gazich, has also opted to attend an NCAA Division III MIAC school, committing to the Gustavus Adolphus College Gusties in St. Peter, Minn.
Gazich started the 2016-17 campaign with the La Crosse Freeze (10, 2-9-11, 47), of the NA3HL, and joined the Rock (41, 5-20-25, 44) in October.
Daschuk, who was responsible for the Rock D-men last season, is quite familiar with the 6-1, 195 pound Minnetonka, Minn., native appeared in every Rock (10, 0-0-0, 2) playoff game, but he was held off the scoresheet.
“He was a pretty good two-way defenceman and I would say his upside was his offence,” he said.
“He had the ability to jump into the play and guy can shoot the puck. He has a big league, quick snap shot and he was able to find the lanes and get it on net.
“He was a very coachable kid who was always willing to listen to what we had to say. He would take things in and then go out there and not make the same mistakes.”
Meanwhile, fellow defenceman Spencer Segui — like Rogers a native of North Haven, CT — has committed to play for the Fitchburg State University Falcons of the NCAA Division III’s Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Segui, who stands in at 5-10 and weighs 176 pounds, persevered through an injury-plagued 2016-17 campaign (47, 5-25-30, 30) and was solid (9, 0-0-0, 0) during the Rock’s 10-game playoff run.
“He had some bad luck, obviously, getting hit in the face with a puck,” Daschuk said.
“He lost a bunch of teeth. It would have been easy for him to pull the pin and shut things down after that. Realistically, that kind of incident could change your life.
“It took him a little while to get back, but you have to give him credit coming back definitely showed the kind of person he is. He really wanted to help the team whatever way he could. I respect him tremendously for that.
Segui joined the Rock near the end of the 2015-16 regular season (6, 0-2-2, 0) and got into all of the team’s 2016 playoff games (6, 0-0-0, 0).
“He came in and played like a 20 year old for us this year,” Daschuk said.
“Our power play was ranked pretty high for the whole year and Spencer was a big part of that.”
The assistant coach is confident all three Rock graduates will find success at the next level.
“All three of them are guys who want to succeed and who want to do well,” he said.
“They are all good listeners and they are all very coachable. It will be a bit of an adjustment for them. Their new coaches likely won’t coach the same way Paul (Gagne) did or have the same philosophies we have, but I feel they are capable of adapting.
“They are all very nice kids and very respectful. It’s sad to see them go.”
Having players secure commitments to play university hockey should help the Rock when they look at recruiting the next Rogers, Gazich and Segui for the 2017-18 campaign.
“We are in the process of recruiting for next season right now and that is one of the things that has come up a few times,” Daschuk said.
“If guys leave on a positive note, that’s huge for us. It all helps with the recruiting.