It’s a whole new era that’s about to begin in Binghamton.
As I made my way down to The Floyd for an open practice held by the Binghamton Devils on Thursday, I couldn’t help but realize how time really does indeed fly by. I mean, it seemed like yesterday when the first training camp took place at this time last season.
Once I settled into my seat, I noticed something different than previous ones I have attended, including several held in the past by the BSens. I’m sure my anxiety level was plenty full of anticipation as I was amongst a small gathering of fans that soaked in the action from the stands during the brief, 90 minute session.
But what I witnessed was not so much dialed in on individual skills, but a collective emphasis on the team itself that included many two-on-twos, three-on-threes and full five-on-fives with semi-contact behavior. New BDevils’ head coach Mark Dennehy donned the skates, along with long time assistant coach Sergei Brylin and several other team assistants in helping out.
This time around would be different. No more drawing lines on the ice with black paint, no technical preaching with players standing around lost with utter boredom. This camp would be different, thank goodness.
Replaced with actual skating, skating and more skating with an upbeat tempo suited for players that seemingly were welcomed. Yes, there was the occasional break for chalkboard type X’s and O’s instructions from Dennehy along the wall, but it was short and precise.
Overall, this day consisted of intense exercises that involved everyone on quick possessions on puck handling. Players seemed to have really enjoyed themselves as evident of several smiles as well as reading into body language forming team bonding would appear.
The practice was very structured and organized on how to take advantage of smaller ice surfaces like The Floyd. In particular, one drill took place inside the blueline with two nets stocked with goalies in each corner on an angle with three-on-three action which was fascinating to watch.
Another was held within one third of the ice surface and two nets facing one another East to West with goaltenders in for a two-on-two display. The play was intense and lasted for about 30 seconds before the whistle was heard and substitutes were made as players looked on. Again, it seemed to lean towards adjusting to the rink dimensions that Dennehy faced similarly to Merrimack College where he recently coached for.
One thing that caught my attention on several drills was puck movement within the play itself as three, sometimes four players skated in small circles while passing to each other before the whistle was blown indicating the start of the drill. Talk about keeping your players on their toes.
Towards the end players split up, as one side of the ice featured Brylin running passing and shooting drills for the defensemen, while on the other end the offense was fully engaged on shooting drills with both netminders.
A short time later, a trio of forwards (Kurtis Gabriel, Nick Lappin and Blake Pietila) wandered down to the defensive side of the rink and worked on their tip-ins near the crease from shots held from the blueline, as all three rotated turns in front of the net.
Overall, an impressive camp. And to be honest, probably the best one I have seen to date as well organized as it was. Dennehy’s direction made it look easy as you can tell he’s done this a few times in the past.
A few notables that stuck out;
- It was good to hear a voice from Brylin participating in some drills as Dennehy took a pass sifting his way out amongst players. Nothing but respect was what I gathered for the long time NJ Devil.
- Brandon Gignac looked to be fully recovered from a full blown ACL that forced him to the sidelines early last season as he skated hard.
- Joey Anderson is fast. This kid has serious wheels and should be a standout for the BDevils this season.
- Nick Lappin was fully engaged and smiles as his first practice took place after being cut from NJ. I think he really loves hockey regardless where he is at.
- Eric Tangradi was absent for unknown reasons.
- Kurtis Gabriel is a beast, and is rather large. Colton White took a slash to the wrist from Gabriel near the corner boards and lost his stick in the process, as he sat out on the bench for a few moments to help aide his recovery. White would shortly return without missing his shift.
- Yegor Yakovlev was here and paired up with both Josh Jacobs and Michael Kapla. Although I was a little taken back on his slim built. (Ahh, the deceptive powers of television.)
- Marian Studenic was noticeable, as well as Colby Sissons. Nothing significant to report, but they both caught my eye.
- Cam Johnson and Colton Phinney were the two goaltenders.
It’s a whole new era and let’s get excited!
A pair of preseason contests take place this weekend with the Utica Comets on Friday and Saturday. The official season begins next Saturday, Oct 6th as the BDevils host Calder Cup Champion’s Toronto Marlies.