Before the puck drops tomorrow evening, the Johnstown Tomahawks are embattled in the rigors of training camp, a tradition this time of the year signaling hockey’s imminent return.
Head coach Mike Letizia and company have the players competing at a high level as the preseason winds down and they prepare for the opening night of the regular season on Friday, Sept. 14 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“So far, as expected the compete level has been pretty high,” Letizia said. “Early on in camp there is always an adjustment period in terms of skill and playing with new surroundings for guys coming out of the summer off-season, but the one thing we always want to make sure of is that we have a compete level that is high enough to overcome some of those areas early on while we are finding our way. We have made some improvements each day in different areas, and hopefully that will continue to progress each day and week as we head into our pre-season scheduled games and our regular season opener.”
This season’s training camp contains a healthy mix of rookies and veterans. The Tomahawks will rely on their veterans to lead the team during the campaign.
But make no mistake.
All players, even the returners, must show that they have improved and compete day in and day out.
“Each guy knew that there was going to be accountability in reaching a new height this summer and coming into camp, so there should not have been any surprises for anyone in terms of what we expected individually from them and the approach we would take as a team,” Letizia said. “The biggest thing for veterans is to not take anything for granted, and especially for guys entering their second year to not have the satisfaction or comfort level of now no longer being a rookie. Every day in camp is a battle, and there is never an easy day in this league so the first time you think you can coast, the challenges get that much harder. We expect the same buy-in, compete, and commitment to team excellence from every player on this team no matter their status or experience level.”
After a week of training camp, the Tomahawks are gearing up for a four-game slate of preseason contests, starting tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 31 against the Binghamton Jr. Sens.
The preseason schedule also includes a visit from the highly-regarded Team USA, a program that develops the nation’s most elite prospects.
For Letizia and his coaching staff, it is a great opportunity for evaluation and new challenges for the players.
“We are really excited about the exhibition games we have coming up and having a lot of them was by design,” he said. “We feel they should present a quality amount of time for evaluation by our coaching staff of our players, and also hopefully time to display advancement in our game. Obviously, each game will present new challenges for us, and we are hoping they allow us to grow as individuals and as a team while we get ready for the season opener. Having a strong training camp and successful pre-season is important to build the foundation for the year ahead.”