Just as the prospects were starting to get comfortable, the old guards waltzed back into Western Financial Place this week.
After having prospect-only ice times from Friday to Sunday, on Monday morning, the Kootenay Ice’s training camp evolved into its main camp with the arrival of their veteran players.
The group of 21 returning Ice players, summer acquisitions and two European imports kicked off their year with fitness testing on Sunday afternoon. According to James Patrick, the boys appeared to have taken their summer training seriously.
“I’m happy with [their fitness levels], we had a couple outstanding efforts,” he said. “[The team’s sports fitness advisor] Adam [Douglas] said that we exceeded other teams that he’s worked with at the World Junior level.
“There are a couple of things we’re going to have to focus on, that he thought needed to be strengthened, but overall he was really pleased. I thought that most of the guys did a really good job [and] came in shape.”
According to Cameron Hausinger, who the team acquired from the Red Deer Rebels in late June, the testing set an important tone.
“I could have prepared myself a little bit better, but I was okay with my performance,” Hausinger said. “I know what to expect now [and that] they’re taking things [very] seriously here.”
After his first on-ice session on Monday morning, Hausinger also admitted that it was slightly intimidating to work with Patrick and associate coach John Klemm, both of whom have significant NHL experience.
“It was a little nerve wracking. They all know what they’re doing and they have a lot of hockey experience,” he said. “So just to be out there with them [was big]. It was good to get my feet wet [though] and I’m ready to join the season with them.”
According to last year’s leading scorer Vince Loschiavo, Patrick is a perfect addition to the mix in Kootenay.
“That’s what this team needs, somebody who’s played and obviously coached in the NHL for a lot of years and knows what he’s talking about,” Loschiavo said. “We’re all going to listen [and] it should be good.”
Loschiavo, who spent a week of the summer at an NHL development camp with the Dallas Stars, said that he feels like he’s returned this fall to an entirely new team.
“The way we’ve been treated [has been outstanding],” he said. “It’s a pro-environment and it’s great, from the coaching staff [right] up to the top in management. It’s been great so far.”
Brett Davis, a linemate of Loschiavo’s for the second half of last season and also a part of the Stars development camp after he was drafted by the franchise in the sixth round of the NHL Entry Draft, agreed.
“[Bringing a pro-experience] is one of the main things we’re trying to work on here in Kootenay and I think the coaching staff is doing a great job with that,” he said. “[With Dallas, I] learned a lot off the ice when it comes to living like a pro and eating like a pro and training like a pro.
“Vince and I are going to take what we learned and help the other guys out as much as we can.”
Ice captain Cale Fleury also spent time at an NHL camp with the Montreal Canadiens. The defenceman was selected in the third round at the draft and said the experience was an eye-opener.
“It was just good seeing guys that are at that level and some of the older guys that have played pro already,” he said. “The whole camp is just a whole different skillset.”
On Monday afternoon, the NHL-camp players all highlighted the first game of the main camp, a two-period scrimmage between Team Cracknell and Team Sinclair, two of three squads at the camp.
There were only three goals in the hour-long two-period affair, however, and none of the goals came from Davis, Loschiavo or Fleury. All three played together on Team Sinclair and were shutout by a team led by current Ice alumnus and current Dallas Stars forward Adam Cracknell.
The first period of the game was a goaltender duel with Jesse Makaj keeping the door slammed shut for Sinclair and Mario Petit staying perfect for Cracknell.
Finally in the second period, Adam Cracknell had a chance alone with the goaltender and broke the drought. Returning Ice players Kaeden Taphorn and Tanner Sidaway then added their own goals for a 3-0 victory.
Will Gurski was in net for Sinclair in the second period and had a shutout, while Gage Alexander was the unfortunate victim of all three goals against.
Training camp continues tomorrow with practices and two more scrimmages. Team Cracknell will face Team Lieuwen, led by Peyton Krebs and Colton Kroeker, at 10:00 a.m. and Team Sinclair will play Team Lieuwen at 4:45 p.m.
The camp will finally wrap up on Wednesday with the annual intrasquad Black vs.White game, which will be held in the Kimberley Civic Centre at 7 p.m.