CINCINNATI, OH – The Cincinnati Cyclones began their third day of on-ice workouts Monday morning at U.S. Bank Arena. Through the first couple days, with 27 players fighting for jobs, Head Coach Matt Macdonald likes what he’s seeing so far from the 2016-17 Cincinnati Cyclones hopefuls.
“Everybody looks really good so far,” stated Macdonald. “We’ve been working them pretty hard these first couple days to make sure everybody’s getting as much out of these practices as they can. These practices have been pretty high tempo, so it’s nice to get these guys going in that direction again after their summer workouts which don’t have those up-tempo drills.”
And early on in camp, when asked if anyone in particular had stood out to him, Macdonald struggled to think of just one name that had exceeded his expectations.
“There’s been a lot of guys that have done a great job, and I wouldn’t say there’s anybody right now that’s head and shoulders above the rest,” continued Macdonald. “As a group, everyone’s done well. I’m just really happy everybody’s come to camp in shape, and everybody’s coming in with the right mentality.”
Both Macdonald and Assistant Coach Patrick Wellar believe the city of Cincinnati sells itself and used it as a recruiting tool during the off-season. For newcomers Joel Rumpel and Peter LeBlanc, Cincinnati was their next destination for a number of reasons.
“Before Matt called me, I had heard a lot of great things about the team, the organization, and the fans,” stated Rumpel. “I played against them when they beat us a couple times down in Allen last year. I love Matt’s outlook on how he runs the team which made it a pretty easy decision for me.”
“Cincinnati is a good spot for me because it’s nice to be close to the family,” remarked LeBlanc. “I really enjoyed my previous time in North America and have really enjoyed being around the guys here with all the chatter in the locker room.”
Training camp is something, in Cincinnati’s case, that isn’t open to the public. Your average fan doesn’t get to see the drills and workouts the Cyclones coaching staff puts the players through. For the fans who wonder what goes on at camp, Macdonald described what a “Matt Macdonald training camp” looks like to help give the fans at home a bit of perspective.
“It’s a hard camp,” continued Macdonald. “Especially early on in camp, we make sure we put them through the paces pretty hard and make sure they’re really getting their skates and workouts in. Because camp is so short, the first week is extremely tough, then we dial it back a bit and help prepare them for the first game.”
As a testament to how hard Macdonald’s camps can be, Nick Huard shares his reaction to the first couple days of camp and how the workouts have been on his body.
“The workouts have been good so far. Macdonald has put us through the paces pretty good this year,” said Huard. “First two skates, we took a bit of a bang at the end, but it’s all to help us later down the road. It just sucks to do them right now. Obviously, coming off of a long summer, it stings the lungs a little bit.”
With Huard also entering his second full season of professional hockey, his mind is calm and collective and wants to pick up right where he left off last season to make his second season as a pro even better than his rookie season.
“I just want to improve my all around game,” continued Huard. “There’s no specific number or anything I’ve set out for myself, but obviously, I want to exceed what I did last year, and just try to improve everyday.”
With the ECHL being a development league for NHL/AHL prospects, every roster usually contains a lot of younger guys. To have success in this league, having veteran leadership in the locker room to help lead the young guns is monumental. Being one of only two veterans on the team, Peter LeBlanc brings a wealth of AHL experience to the Cyclones roster, and has been through the course numerous times to help be that shoulder to lean on for the younger guys who may be going through the motions of the regular season for the first time.
“It’s a long season, there’s going to be times when things get tough,” stated LeBlanc. “During the season, you’re riding on a high wave and I think you have to keep things as even as possible. You just have to roll with the punches as the season goes along.”
Finally, we were able to get Joel Rumpel to expose his softer side a bit, and get him to talk about what it was like to do something not many players get the opportunity to do, and that’s be a part of back-to-back championships in their first two seasons as a professional. It was a tremendous learning curve for somebody who just joined the professional ranks, and he picked up a few things from that experience to hopefully be able to replicate similar success in Cincinnati.
“It was pretty special, considering some players don’t get the chance to win a championship,” remarked Rumpel. “I learned a lot from my teammates down in Allen. Leadership is crucial. I think it’s huge to find the right leaders to be able to run a hockey team, and how you need to act around your team to bring that winning attitude.”
The Cyclones have a few more days of practices left before the team will hit the road for West Virginia to battle the Wheeling Nailers in a preseason home-at-home on Thursday, October 6th and Friday, October 7th.