New Faces, Opportunities For The Monarchs
By Nick Chacos
The Monarchs hit the ice for their first training camp practice of the 2013-14 season at Sullivan Arena on the campus of Saint Anselm College on Wednesday. One could have anticipated the team might look a little fatigued having just arrived on the East Coast after a few weeks of training in Los Angeles with the Kings, but the players looked sharp and energetic throughout their first practice as a team. The Monarchs have revamped their roster with young aspiring skaters looking for the chance to prove themselves as well as compliment the skilled players returning from their 2012-13 campaign. If one thing was clear after their first practice together, it was that this team has a combination of young talent and ambition that looks poised to grasp the opportunities presented by the upcoming season.
There were plenty of new faces wearing Monarchs jerseys Wednesday, with eight players having never played in Manchester prior to this season. Players such as right wing Scott Sabourin and forward Bishop Hunter, look to build on their previous time in Manchester and make strides during their first full season with the team.
When asked if coming to the Monarchs last season helped him form a foundation for success this year, Sabourin explained, “Definitely. Any time you get a chance to get your feet wet and get yourself in that situation, I’d say you have to capitalize on it.”
Having worked on his skating and speed over the summer, Sabourin believes his hard work is beginning to show and hopes to continue to improve going forward. All the young players seem to share a focus of improving themselves to better the team; a good sign to see on the first day of camp.
It was apparent that their time practicing with the Kings was a positive influence on some of the younger players, but it also gave the team a chance to develop a little chemistry of their own. In their first official practice, the players looked very comfortable, sharing the puck and moving through drills at a fast, efficient speed.
“The pace and systems we learned [in Los Angeles] are the exact same ones here,” said rookie defenseman Alex Roach. “I think it gave me a head start coming here, knowing some of the guys and just learning what to expect at practice and how hard you have to work.”
Roach also mentioned that the city of Manchester has already made an impression on him.
“It looks like a really cool city and hopefully I get to enjoy a little more of it today and see what it’s about, but so far so good,” said Roach. “It’s been a good first impression.”
After a successful season with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League last year, Roach hopes to make an impact on the Monarchs, reiterating the theme of getting better every day when asked what he’s most looking forward to this season.
Despite each player’s commitment to improving their own skill sets, those returning to the team understand that the goal is to win games and to make a deep playoff run. Defenseman Nick Deslauriers, who played in 63 regular season games last year for the Monarchs, believes this group of smart, hardworking players will only progress as their time together increases.
After arriving in Los Angeles five weeks before the start of camp and working toward being in the best shape of his professional career, Deslauriers feels this is the year that the team is ready take the extra steps necessary to advance in the playoffs.
“To get the most wins as possible,” Deslauriers stated as one of the team’s goals for the upcoming season. “It’s been two years since we’ve had a good run in the playoffs. I think everybody feels it’s time to make a great run and have a bite at it. Our organization is great; the team is amazing. I feel like we want to try to win more rounds and see what happens.”
The Monarchs see their first preseason action this weekend with two games against the Portland Pirates. The team will travel to Saco, Maine for a 12:30 p.m. contest on Saturday and then will return home for a 3:00 p.m. game at Sullivan Arena on Sunday. These two games should give the team a good idea on what more they need to work on before their season opener against the Springfield Falcons, who eliminated them from the playoffs last year, on Saturday, October 5.