Some propped their chins atop their hockey sticks, others stood tall, and still more took a knee to form a three-person-deep group of humanity.|
The abundant gathering of hockey hopefuls intently encircled Quad City Mallards coach Frank Anzalone — the man who will soon decide their professional future — and the coach held their eager gaze throughout Monday's first day of training camp at the i wireless Center.
Anzalone said the group of 30 players will be trimmed to 19 or 20 by opening night, Oct. 17. That leaves the door open for jobs to be won or lost.
But not on day one.
"The first morning is always the best because everyone is always attentive," Anzalone said. "The listening was good. The skating wasn't bad. The passing, actually, was very good. ... But I don't see the players real clearly when I'm on the ice. I'll see that at the scrimmage."
That was the second section of Monday's two-part day. The exhibition pitted QC's "white sweaters" against "black sweaters" and ended with team-black leading 2-1 after 32 minutes of play. Chris Lipsett, Obi Aduba and Brandon Marino scored goals, each beating a different goaltender.
"It takes a couple of scrimmages before guys rise up," Anzalone said. "The Double-A player doesn't get the quality of ice time the NHL player does. We have one skate (today) and Wednesday will be back (to two sessions), and I expect to see a little more jump by then."
The "new" Mallards makeup is a balance of youth and experience, with 17 players 25 years old or younger and 13 players 26 or older. Seven of the men are here by invitation, though the veteran hockey coach says everyone has a shot.
The early goal is to make it to next Tuesday when Anzalone expects to have his squad pared down. Until then, the Mallards will practice through Friday and play exhibition contests against Bloomington at 7 p.m. Saturday in Decatur and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Quad City Sports Center.
"I want to stay a part of this," said 6-4, 215-pound defenseman Jaques Perreault. "Everyone in the Quad-Cities has been very nice and very kind, and it'd be a great start to my career as a pro.
"We still have some stuff to work on, but everyone seems to be getting along, and hopefully that ends with some good chemistry, and that's what we're looking for with an expansion team. Everyone is new here."
New to the area, but hardly new to the game or their coach, are Lipsett and Jean Desrochers. Both have played under Anzalone. The 35-year-old Lipsett has been a pro for 13 seasons. Desrochers, 29, has four seasons of AHL and ECHL experience to go along with a season in Italy.
These are two of the guys that Anzalone said he might rely on as extra eyes on the ice since they know his system.
Aside from being the most experienced member of the squad, Lipsett has leadership experience as a player-assistant coach for the CHL's Rapids City Rush last season, though he said much of that dealt with the business side of hockey. Still, he'll likely have a large leadership role with QC, though he doesn't expect to be the only guide.
"I think everyone needs to be a leader out there," he said. "Just because someone played 13, 14 years doesn't mean they're the leader. It's all about leading by example. There's only so much you can say."
And for the 30 players in QC's camp, there's only so much time to make an impression.