MOLINE, IL — The Mallards began the second week of training camp with another morning session on Sunday. With the addition of Justin Kovacs, Nathan Todd, Alexander Taulien, and Kevin Gibson, the Mallards were able to dress four lines. Chris Francis did not attend Sunday or Monday’s camps, which made Kyle Follmer go from defense to forward in Sunday’s practice.
So far, Coach Terry Ruskowski is impressed with all of the players, but he singled out a few he was particularly impressed by.
“Harris – I like his intensity, I like his skating ability. I think Arnold’s having a good camp,” the Mallards coach said. “I think the guys are really having a good camp. It’s the first time today I got to see Kovacs and Nathan Todd play, and they’re pretty impressive too. So I like our kids; they work hard, they’re diligent in their job, and they want to do the best they can. And if you have that kind of attitude with talent, hopefully, it ends up with a lot of wins.”
What do the players think of it all? They all seem to agree on one thing: Coach Rosco is the reason they came.
Sam Warning said, “I just love Quad Cities. Here I think I can get better every day I come to the rink. The front office, the coaching staff, everybody. It’s unbelievable, the fans are awesome; so much support from them. So it’s definitely a fun time being here and it was an easy choice to come back.”
“I hear it’s a great program,” Alexander Taulien said. “Terry’s a great coach, same with Coach Ax (Axtell), they did well last year, they’re a hard working team. Overall, just gonna have a fun year, work hard, and hopefully win some hockey games.”
Of all the guys I spoke with, the common theme for their summer activities was training hard.
CJ Motte returned to his Alma Mater, Ferris State, for part of the summer. “I was at home about half the summer, and then … went to college, try and help with some of the team there and some of the other alumni guys I played with there, so that was a pretty fun summer up there.”
Warning had a similar summer, going up north to Minneapolis to skate with the Golden Gophers and work out with them. “That was an awesome time.”
As a rookie, Taulien did what anyone smart would: trained even harder. “Just worked out hard and trained hard, being a rookie this year I know I’m gonna have to earn ice and, you know, looking forward to going on a journey with these guys.”
Though the team has been busy with camp and not wanting to tire themselves exploring the city too much, from what Motte’s seen so far, he likes the area. “I like the city, you know, there’s a lot going on. Everyone I’ve been around so far has treated us really well, been really nice to us, so it’s good to have a good fan base to support us here.”
Kovacs was excited to be able to join the Mallards, even though he was unfortunately cut from the Chicago Wolves’ roster. “Well, I kinda wanted to come here last year. I ended up playing for Kalamazoo, but I know a few guys here. A couple guys on the team played for my junior team, so I figured we’d gel pretty well together. And I ended up talking to Coach Terry and just ended up signing here.”
With the additions of forwards Pavel Jenys, Brady Brassart, and Jack Nevins, as well as defensemen Alex Gudbranson and Jace Coyle, the Mallards now have seven defenders and 15 forwards, plus forward/defenseman Kyle Follmer. I expect a few cuts to be made tomorrow, as season-opening rosters have the be sent to the league offices by 2pm Central time Wednesday.
The Mallards will continue their training camp until Thursday, with the season starting at home Friday evening. The new players will continue exploring the city, and they seem excited for both the season and the adventure ahead.
“[I’m] looking forward to doing that [exploring the area] this week. Haven’t really been around the city much, but looks like a pretty nice city and can’t wait,” Kovacs said.