Ice Hawks open training camp Friday
The Rochester Ice Hawks are set to open their training camp Friday, and they'll do so with only a handful of veterans in attendance.
Despite the turnover, Ice Hawks coach Nick Fatis is quite pleased with the 40 players he's expecting in town this weekend for the final tryout camp.
Players will filter into town Friday for off-ice activities and will begin practicing Saturday. The first on-ice practice is at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and the first scrimmage will be at 3 p.m. Another scrimmage starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday's action resumes at 8:30 a.m. with a scrimmage. The final game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., and the Ice Hawks coaching staff will make their final cuts early Sunday afternoon.
All on-ice practices and scrimmages are free and open to the public.
"I encourage all of our fans to come out this weekend," Fatis said. "It's a fun time, and it's your first chance to check out our new crop of players."
Fatis will open camp with just six veterans — Charles Gallagher, Jake Sikkema, Drew Carlson, Brock Stahlke, Derek Rahme and Shaun Foster. Much of last year's team aged out, a handful of players moved on to colleges and several others are playing at a higher level of juniors this season.
"We'll have 40 guys in camp, and that's a nice number. We'll look to get down to about 34 after this weekend," Fatis said. "There are some guys we wish were here, but we're going to be just fine. The young men we do have coming in are looking great, and I'm feeling very good about the personalities we have. Last year there were some question marks in that department, but I like the attitudes we have this year."
The Ice Hawks do not have a returning goaltender. Cory Simons is playing Tier II in Canada, and Lawrence Dvorak decided not to return to the team.
But Fatis said he's bringing in a handful of goalies. "We like who's coming in; it's not a spot I'm worried about at all," Fatis said.
On offense, the Ice Hawks will look to replace almost all of last year's top scorers. Fatis said one player to watch in that department is Jake Zarzycki, a speedy forward from Michigan.
"He will get the attention of our fans immediately," Fatis said. "He's lightning in a bottle. We have some other guys coming in that might not be as flashy but will produce. But I definitely can see Zarzycki being a fan favorite."
Defense is a bit of a question mark, Fatis said. "If they play to their potential, it will be a strong spot. If not, we'll be in trouble," Fatis said.
The Ice Hawks open their season Sept. 11 at the Twin Cities Northern Lights.
"We're really excited to get started," Fatis said. "We lost a lot, but we love what we have coming in. I feel like there's a lot of talent there."