MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards finally hit the ice at the iWireless Center this week after many schedule changes. First, there were two sessions scheduled, followed by only a morning session scheduled, followed by only the afternoon session scheduled. Suffice it to say, when 2:30 Wednesday afternoon finally rolled around and the Mallards were skating, there were several happy people there.
A total of 15 players participated in the first day’s skate, after the day-of addition of forwards Nolan LaPorte and Ivan Hodulov. LaPorte finished his college career at Western Michigan University, where fellow Mallard hopeful Justin Kovacs graduated at the same time last spring. Kovacs is still at the Iowa Wild training camp, where the AHL team practiced at the Xcel Energy Center. They will play a pair of exhibition games in North Dakota. The Mallards, however, have no preseason games.
“It’s definitely a change this year with no preseason games, and I think the World Cup has kind of thrown a lot of things off, but I think it’s a good opportunity for our team to have a long training camp and work on things throughout with practice, and kind of get our stuff together and get ready for the first game,” defenseman Andrew Panzarella said after the first session of the season.
Panzarella wasn’t the only player to mention a lack of preseason games when asked about the long camp. Chris Francis said, “I feel good. It’s going to be interesting not playing a preseason game, but I think we have a good group of guys here so far, from what I’ve seen, that look like they’re ready to buy in to whatever Terry’s wanting us to do, and I think it’s gonna be a good year.”
While on the first day the players were separated only by position, today there were three lines to complement the defensive corps. Sam Warning, Francis, and LaPorte made up the green line, Grant Arnold, Michael Parks, and Connor Brown constituted the red line, and Hodulov, Joe Harcharik, and Nelson Gadoury made the third line.
Coach Terry Ruskowski seemed to be a deciding factor in Parks’ recent decision to sign with the Flock.
“I think Head Coach Terry Ruskowski had a lot to do with it. I also knew [Assistant Coach] Phill Axtell prior. It just sounded like a good place to play, a lot of opportunity, and sounds like they run a good program here.”
From what I’ve seen so far, Harris, LaPorte, and Parks seem to be the fastest skaters. Though I haven’t seen a real race between the players, during one drill those three seemed to be able to make the fastest strides. Since last season many of the players seemed content to not chase the puck, those three might help change that aspect of the team’s game this season.
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