STEPHENVILLE What exactly is Tim Rose supposed to do for an encore?
Last year, the 19-year-old defenceman from Stephenville helped power his Woodstock Slammers to the Maritime Junior A Hockey League’s Kent Cup championship, losing only six games in the process.
From there, they went on to defeat the champions of the Central Canada Hockey League and Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League to capture the Fred Page Cup and book their ticket to the Royal Bank Cup tournament and a shot at becoming the Canadian Junior A champion.
They stunned the field, making it to the championship game against the Penticton Vees of British Columbia. The two teams were locked in a 3-3 third-period tie, but three consecutive penalties against the Slammers in the final 10 minutes proved to be their undoing, as the Vees scored with 51 seconds left in the game to close the book on the Slammers’ fairy tale run.
“We went the second furthest in our league’s history, to make it to the RBC championship game,” said Rose. “Unfortunately we didn’t win.
“We definitely deserved to win, but we kind of had it robbed from us a little bit.”
Rose admits nobody — not even anyone on the team — expected to be in that position. Most didn’t believe they’d even take the Fred Page tournament.
“Coming from our league, where we stormed through everyone, it was a big wake-up just going to the Fred Page,” Rose said. “The RBC was just another level all together. It was almost like a professional stage.”
That kind of environment can only do good for a young hockey player looking to grow his game.
“It shows you what the next level looks like,” said Rose.
Fast-forward to this season, the Slammers are a very different group, with only a handful of players returning from that successful past campaign. The six-foot-one, 215-pound Rose is one of those guys.
The kid who admits he never imagined playing hockey outside of Newfoundland has now been thrust into a leadership role in his third season on a team that was just the second best Junior A hockey club in the country.
“I’m kind of working my way up to that role,” Rose said. “All of us that played on the team last year obviously went further than most, going to the nationals and all that good stuff, so we’re trying to work together and show the new guys what it takes.
“It’ll be hard to top our team from last year, the whole team was a big family,” he added. “But we’ve definitely got a good group this year and we’re working on living up to the quality of last season.”
For a team with such a massive turnover, the Slammers don’t seem to be too fazed — they’re currently FIRST in the MJAHL’s Meek Division with a 9-3-1 record.
“This team, and this is a quote from the owner, we don’t rebuild, we reload,” said Rose. “That’s pretty much the way it’s been as long as I’ve been here.”
Though the game plan has to change somewhat, the basic approach remains the same — hard work and gritty, give-it-all-you’ve-got play.
“We don’t have as much skill as we did last year,” conceded Rose.
“We want to be a physical team,” he added. “We don’t have the size that we had now either, but we definitely have the work level. We’ve got a lot more guys built to work hard.”
Rose began his hockey career as a six-year-old in the Stephenville Minor Hockey program, signed up to play and have some fun by his parents Brian and Cathy. He worked his way up through the atom, peewee, bantam and midget divisions, playing at a AAA level, before skating for a season with the provincial major midget league’s Western Kings. He then moved to Ontario to attend a prep school, where he continued to play hockey, before moving to Woodstock, N.B. in his senior year of high school.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
A steady, stay-at-home defenceman, Rose isn’t going to win any scoring titles, but just might have a say in who does every time he steps on the ice.
“Being aware of my own zone and not getting scored upon are my main goals going out there,” he said.
He’s totaled 11 points, all assists, in 82 MJAHL games, including three helpers this year in 13 games, two of them coming in Friday night’s 4-2 victory over the Weeks Crushers.
He plays on a shutdown pairing for the Slammers, and has just started earning precious minutes on the penalty kill, which is as good as a guarantee that coach Jason Tatarnic has faith in his abilities.
“I picked up my game the last little bit and I’ve been getting quite a bit (of penalty-kill time), which I’m real happy about,” Rose said. “Confidence is everything and I’m really finding my ground right now and noticing a big difference in my game.”
With one more year of eligibility after this season, he expects to be a Slammer again next season. After that, perhaps some university hockey while he works towards his intended objective of a business administration degree.
“Hockey is definitely not my career of choice,” he said. “But I’ll go at it and see how far I can get with it.”
And why wouldn’t he?
It’s only early, but from the looks of things, he and the Slammers could be heading towards another unforgettable experience.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see us right back where we were last year, to be honest,” said Rose. “We’ve got a bit of work ahead of us, but I’ve got a feeling we could be right up there again.”