Arriving at the rink on Thursday, I was happy I knew what to expect. This was my second year participating in the camp and I was able to play a few games with the Steel this past season. Unfortunately, I injured my shoulder this year and wasn't able to play more games with the Steel. It was still nice to be able to catch my bearings and get to know the guys. On Thursday, I was put on Team Yellow for a quick practice. Practice seemed to be geared toward getting all the guys their touches so that they would be ready to go for the first games of the weekend on the next day.
Friday's games couldn't have started any sooner as I am sure everyone was getting anxious to play. Before the game, Coach Muse came into the locker room and gave a talk. He said that everyone should play their game and stick to what got them here. With the drop of the puck, the adrenaline set in and we were all ready to play. Soon into the game, I was set on a line with Jack Badini and Zach Risteau. We seemed to mesh pretty well and adapted to each other's styles fairly quickly to build chemistry as a line. We were able to generate some goals and make some plays. Risteau and I had a pretty nice give-and-go goal to tie the game at 3-3. After the game, we only had a few hours of down time before we were to get right back at it.
I went with the ever-so-original meal of chicken and pasta and tried to rest my legs for an hour or so. Before I knew it, the first puck drop of the game already happened. We kept the lines the same, which I was excited about and we seemed to only get better with each other. Throughout both games the coaches seemed to be really pushing the terms of work ethic, and passion; two values the Steel pride themselves on. Our game ended fairly early so I was able to catch a movie with a couple of guys and then we headed to bed.
"I don't think anyone within a few miles was too fond of this as the aroma wasn't necessarily pleasant. "
Saturday's games were continuously getting more and more competitive. At this point, the camp was clearly in full speed and all the players were focused and dialed in. Between games, there seemed to be a swarm of gear outside as players were trying to dry their gear in the hot sun. I don't think anyone within a few miles was too fond of this as the aroma wasn't necessarily pleasant. To all the players, it was obviously nothing outside the ordinary.
With Sunday came the first set of cuts so I thought the intensity and speed really picked up through both games. After the first game, there was a roster shuffle and I was moved to the Team Green. I was put on the right with two veteran players. It was fun getting to play with some new guys and just get to mix things up. We were able to generate some plays and had some nice goals. Saturday night the players all got emails to see if they made the All-Star Game on Monday. It was sent out pretty late, as the coaches had some tough decisions to make.
I was able to sleep in Monday and get a pretty big breakfast since we didn't play until 1:00 p.m. I was on Team Silver and played between Greg Printz and Bobby Hampton. I knew both of them and got to play with them in Chicago this year. Having already played with them, I thought we brought instant chemistry and made plays right from the puck drop. We created some nice goals and were able to control the puck in their end for a while. This always makes the game easier.
After the game, all the players grabbed a bite to eat and eagerly awaited the announcement of the 30-man roster. After hearing the selections, we went to get fitted for gear and go through some fitness testing. The coaches said they wanted to meet with all of us so we crammed in the lounge and awaited our meetings. I had an earlier flight than most so I was able to get in and out pretty quick. We talked about Training Camp this August which would conflict with my schedule if I make the Hlinka team. The coaches were already aware and understanding about working around the potential situation.
Looking back at the long weekend, I had a great time and it was nice to get another taste of the USHL before the real journey begins.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.