General Manager and Head Coach of the St. Charles Chill, Jamie Rivers, has been preparing for today since the beginning of the summer. Training camp has opened and the players hit the ice today for the first time this season.
The team hit the ice in two different groups this morning, with some notable names in both groups. Goaltender Mathieu Corbeil hit the ice for the first time since being sent down from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League and was easily the best goalie on the ice this morning. His size helps him on the ice as he tends to cover the entire bottom of the net. His reflexes and the quickness he has for being a bigger goalie will only help him as he will look to solidify his spot on the roster.
Former East Coast Hockey League MVP, Chad Costello was also on the ice with the first group, and he's already in regular season form. His passes were crisp and tape-to-tape. His vision on the ice is outstanding and it shows when he's making plays. The 27 year old veteran returns to the Central Hockey League after spending the last two seasons between the ECHL and the American Hockey League. He's expected to produce a lot of offense for the Chill this season, as his last year in the CHL with the Tulsahe racked up 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) in just 54 games.
Chill's tough guy Riley Emmerson hit the ice this morning with group one and admitted there was a little rust when returning to the ice. "I haven't been on the ice for a week. I was up in the Springfield Falcons camp last week and traveling all week, I had to get some rust off. After the first couple of reps you start to feel good and things will only get better over the next week."
The second group was highlighted by veteran defensemen Steve Makway, and goalies Robert Moss and Tate Maris. Since the first group had three goaltenders, group two relied on just two and it was a lot of work for the guys between the pipes. "It was a little tiring with just two goalies out there but it was good to get used to the ice out there," Maris said as he came off the ice.
Maris, 24, is battling with five goaltenders for a spot on the opening day roster for the Chill. With Corbeil, Moss, Troy Redmond, and Kevin McFarland, he has competition in camp. "With five goalies out there, which I think is good to have, it pushes each one of us to try and reach out max potential. For me, I have to stay mentally sharp. The best thing is to do what coach Rivers said, just do what you do best. For me, however I stop the puck, it's just about getting it done. I just have to do what I do."
Maris was strong on the ice today, showing strong lateral movement and very quick reflexes. He's got a very solid butterfly, he closes the pads quickly and he keeps puck from sneaking through. The best asset Maris has is his competitiveness. He never gives up on any shot. Despite being the first practice of the year, Maris was aggressive, attacking the shot and doing everything he could to keep the puck out. He made a beautiful stop on Max Mobley, stretching out his pad and making a toe save after a two-on-one drill.
Regarding the goaltenders today, Corbeil, Moss, and Maris were the three that stood out to me the most. McFarland and Redmond both looked shaky in net. McFarland being the shakiest, letting in countless goals up high. He'll really need to work on using his hands better if he wants an opportunity on the roster this year.
Maris isn't the only player on a tryout, as the three other invites from August's tryout are also in camp and competing hard for a spot. Defensemen Sean Fitzpatrick, and forwards Max Mobley and Phil Bushbacher all looked like they belonged on day one. Mobley, to me, looked like the fastest forward on the ice today. He has great speed and I think that could play a significant role on him locking down a roster spot.
Bushbacher scored quite a few times with group one, using his size and speed to get in on the goalies quickly and his release is top notch as he'd rifle pucks into the back of the net, with relative ease.
Coach Rivers was impressed with the work effort in today's camp. There were a few standout players for Rivers on day one.. "Anthony Pisano looked really good out there, for a big boy. Sean Muncy, Jordan Fox, Chad Costello, and Kyle Kraemer all looked good out there. Bushbacher looked real good too."
Training camp is open to the public Tuesday (2:30-3:30) and Wednesday (3:30-4:30) this week. Thursday, camp will be closed as the team gears up to take on the Missouri Mavericks on Friday night. Fridays game is free and does not requite a ticket to attend the game. Seating will be general admission.