Rock 2023-24 blue-line combines experience, fresh faces

Timmins Rock blue-liner Chase Longhurst-McIntyre moves to cut off Charles Pigeon’s path to the net during one of the Team White vs Team Black scrimmages at the Timmins Rock’s main camp at the Whitney Arena. Longhurst-McIntyre is one of the four veteran D-man back to help anchor the Rock’s eight-man blue-line in 2023-24. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc

Four veteran D-men back to help anchor eight-man unit

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

The Timmins Rock blue-line for 2023-24 features a combination of experience and new faces designed to help successfully defend their NOJHL championship.

In addition to newly minted captain Felix Cadieux-Fredette and the Trottier brothers — veteran Kyle and rookie Ayden — who were highlighted in earlier stories, the eight-man unit includes returnees Chase Longhurst-McIntyre and Tenzin Nyman, as well as freshmen Elijah Pool, Cameron Lee and Sam Gallagher.

Like Cadieux-Fredette and Kyle Trottier, Longhurst-McIntyre is entering his final season of Junior ‘A’ eligibility.

Chase Longhurst-McIntyre jpg, TD, apsmc

The 5-10, 175-pound, right-hand shot Oshawa product is entering his third full season in a Rock uniform after getting in single games in the previous campaigns while a member of the GNU18L’s Timmins Majors.

Longhurst-McIntyre (43, 1-9-10, 22) is more of a stay-at-home blue-liner than an offensively gifted D-man.

But that’s okay given he is more focused on helping the Rock repeat as NOJHL champions and returning to the Centennial Cup than he is on padding his personal statistics.

“We have to win our league again first, but I think we have the team to do it,” he said.

“I just have to stick to the game plan, execute the simple plays and work hard.”

Longhurst-McIntyre suffered an upper-body injury that plagued him last season.

“I spent a lot of the summer rehabbing,” he said.

“I was in the gym and then on the ice whenever I could get on the ice.

“Overall, it was a good summer. I had a chance to get away from hockey a little bit, spent time with my family the first couple of weeks, went camping and stuff. It was nice.”

Unfortunately for Longhurst-McIntyre he suffered a different upper-body injury during the second game of the 2023 Cottage Cup preseason tournament in Collingwood and he will likely miss the first couple of games of the regular season.

Tenzin Nyman jpg, TD, apsmc

Nyman, who will be entering his second season with the Rock, has two years of Junior ‘A’ eligibility remaining, counting the upcoming campaign.

The 6-2, 173-pound, right-hand shot Maple Ridge, B.C., product joined the Rock along with his older brother, Kenyon, in 2022-23.

Like Longhurst-McIntyre, the younger Nyman (48, 1-10-11, 6) didn’t put up huge numbers as a rookie, but he is hoping for a larger role on the blue-line in 2023-24.

“Coming into my second year, I definitely have some big shoes to fill,” he said.

“With guys like my brother, Chris Petit and Brandon Rossetti leaving, I am obviously going to have to step up and eat up some minutes.”

While his brother was one of the top D-men in the NOJHL last season, Nyman realizes he has to be himself out on the ice.

“Kenyon and I are totally different players,” he said.

“I know my comfort range and I know what zone I have to stay in, if I start trying to do too much I will lose my grip. As long as I stay level headed, keep my chin up and do what I know how to do best, I will be fine.”

The Rock play a very structured system and Nyman noted he is much more comfortable heading into his second season with the team.

“I have a lot more confidence because I know what to do,” he said.

“I did it all last year.”

Nyman spent part of his summer playing lacrosse and then got to work preparing for the upcoming hockey season, although not in the traditional sense.

“I spent 40 hours a week on the roof, roofing this summer, then tried to hang out with friends and family when I could,” he said.

“It was a short summer, but I am super excited to get back to it (hockey).”

Elijah Pool jpg, TD, apsmc

Like Nyman and the Trottiers, Pool has a sibling connection with the Rock but he didn’t get to play with his brother, Ethan, a forward who was a member of the team last season.

The younger Pool (31, 0-6-6, 36) comes to the Rock by way of the SIJHL’s Dryden Ice Dogs.

Standing 5-11, and weighing 185 pounds, the right-hand shot 2004-birth-year blue-liner hails from St. Albert, Alta.

And position is not the only difference fans can expect to see from the younger Pool brother.

“I am definitely not as fast as him, but I am still trying to work on my speed,” he said.

“Ever since I was younger I have had a bit of a bigger build, so I though playing defence would be better for me.

“I am a good two-way defenceman, but there is not really anyone I tried to model my game after from the NHL when I was growing up.

“I like to get up into the rush, be offensive, but I am pretty good at lock-down defence, as well.”

Pool talked to his older brother before making the decision to come to Timmins and play for the Rock.

“He told me it (NOJHL) was definitely a better league and that Timmins had a better program than where I was at,” he said.

The fact the Rock have a dozen guys back from the squad that won the NOJHL championship and advanced to the Centennial Cup didn’t hurt, either.

“Yeah, 100 per cent, it is something else playing for a team like this,” Pool said.

“I just hope we can do it again this year.

“Coming to a championship team like this, I just have to prove myself. There are a lot of talented players on this team.”

An injury suffered on the final day of the Rock’s main training camp kept Pool out of the lineup during the Cottage Cup preseason tournament in Collingwood.

Elijah Pool jpg, TD, apsmc

Lee (43, 3-11-14, 62) was acquired by the Rock from the PIJHL’s Grandview Steelers in July in exchange for player development fee.

A 5-11, 180-pound, right-hand shot, 2004-birth-year defender he is a Vancouver product.

“I really like to play a two-way game,” Lee said.

“I have always valued both sides of the game and Rock fans can expect to see somebody who is going to play passionate hockey, do whatever I can to get the team a win, block shots, anything.”

Making the jump from Junior ‘B’ to Junior ‘A’ hockey, Lee knows he will have to elevate his game.

“I think the biggest adjustment is going to be the pace of the game,” he said.

“Junior ‘A’ is going to be a lot faster, a lot more structured and a lot more fluid.”

Growing up, Lee tried to pattern his game after New Jersey Devils blue-liner John Marino.

“I think he really embodies the two-way game,” he said.

“I really like parts of his game.”

Vancouver is a long way away from Timmins, so it isn’t surprising Lee had not been in the City with the Heart of Gold prior to joining the Rock.

“I am ecstatic to be here,” he said, of his early impressions of the city and NOJHL franchise.

Like most of the other Rock newcomers, Lee admitted the fact the team won the NOJHL championship last season and advanced to the Centennial Cup made the decision to make the move east more attractive.

“Any time a team advances all the way to the Centennial Cup, it is going to make it more attractive to come here,” he said.

“Being from B.C., I didn’t know too much about this league, but a team that has won it all and gone to the Centennial Cup is a team you are going to want to for, for sure.”

While Lee has not played with any of his new teammates before, he is familiar with former Rock forward Daniel Beaupre, a current member of the Soo Thunderbirds, who has twice been a member of the franchise.

“I had a couple of training sessions with him in the summer,” Lee said.

“I wasn’t too close with him or anything.”

Sam Gallagher jpg, TD, apsmc

Gallagher has the distinction of being the only player, regardless of position, born in Bangkok, Thailand, to ever suit up for the franchise.

Never mind the Rock, he must be one of only a handful of players from Thailand to play Junior ‘A’ hockey, right?

Nope, the Elite Hockey Prospects website lists more than 50 of them.

That’s okay, though as the 5-10, 165-pound left-hand shot 2005-birth-year defender hopes Rock fans will be more focused on his on-ice accomplishments than his place of birth.

“My dad is from Canada, so we moved here when I was six years old,” Gallagher said.

“I just started play (hockey) after that.”

Prior to the move to Canada, Gallagher hadn’t really given hockey much thought.

“It (hockey) is bigger now, but back then, no, we just played mini-sticks in the driveway,” he said.

Gallagher actually played U14 ‘AAA’ and U15 ‘AA’ with the Timmins North Stars program, before making the Timmins Majors GNML squad, although the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out their season.

The past two seasons, he has been part of the Okanagan Hockey Ontario U18 prep program in Whitby.

In 2022-23, his season was split between their CSSHLE U18 (regular season: 14, 1-4-5, 10; playoffs: 3, 0-0-0, 4) and U18 ‘AAA’ (36, 1-8-9, 24) squads.

“I am a smaller defenceman, so I like to join the rush, create as much offence as I can, but I also like to play solid defence and stay with my man,” Gallagher said.

The blue-liner tries to emulate the play of Colorado Avalanche D-man Samuel Girard, who is similar in stature.

“I try to play a lot like him,” Gallagher said.

He is looking forward to trying to help the Rock successfully defend their NOJHL championship in 2023-24.

“Coming here, right away, you can feel how much they want to win,” Gallagher said.

“The vets are just great.”

Having spent the past two years playing for Okanagan Hockey Ontario under former Rock coach Corey Beer, Gallagher was quite familiar with the franchise before he opted to return to Timmins to start his Junior ‘A’ career.

“We kind of talked about Timmins every day, kind of how it is here and everything,” he said.

The Rock are set to open their 2023-24 NOJHL regular-season schedule against the Cubs in Greater Sudbury on Friday and the Vikings (formerly the Red Wings) in Elliot Lake on Saturday.

They will then return home to host the new-look Kirkland Lake Gold Miners at the McIntyre Arena on Friday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m.