To close out the first full day of Chicago Wolves training camp on Monday, head coach John Anderson and assistants Mark Hardy and Brad Tapper sat in the top row of the Triphahn Ice Arena’s bleachers and watched 37 players blast through a 36-minute scrimmage within an hour.
The White team defeated the Black 2-0 on goals by Nathan Longpre (thanks to a sweet feed from Shane Harper) and Pat Cannone (thanks to an empty net), but Anderson didn’t focus on winners and losers. Instead, he dwelled on the effort. Keep in mind, the Wolves already had participated in a full practice and a full workout before the scrimmage.
“I was really happy with the pace out there,” Anderson said. “Our speed has picked up dramatically.”
As has Anderson’s mood. The Wolves had 41 players in Hoffman Estates for the first day of camp, but only 14 played in an American Hockey League game for him last season. Coaches, as you might imagine, prefer to be familiar with their rosters. Over the course of the last three weeks, as Anderson has gone to different Midwestern cities to work with his players in camps, he has grown fond of his charges.
“I was apprehensive coming in, not knowing so many guys,” Anderson said. “I feel a lot more comfortable after seeing what we do have and what we obtained in the offseason. It’s like the dark, right? You’re afraid of the dark because you don’t know what’s out there. I’m way more comfortable right now.”
There was a lot to like during the scrimmage. Ty Rattie, the league’s No. 4 goal-scorer last year with 31 tallies, worked on a line with Phil McRae and John McCarthy that Anderson dubbed “obviously the best line out there.”
Photo by Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
Rattie, McRae, Harper and Cannone were consistently creative in the offensive zone for the White squad, which outshot the Black 25-10 unofficially. Harper set up Longpre’s goal on a 2-on-1 rush as he broke free down the right wing, drew the defenseman to him and fed the flying Longpre in the slot for a one-timer.
The five goaltenders in camp played for both sides during the course of the three-period scrimmage and teamed up to turn away 33 of 34 shots. Rookie goaltenders Jordan Binnington and Niklas Lundstrom — a pair of 21-year-olds — stopped everything they saw. Binnington rejected 12 shots while Lundstrom posted 5 saves. John Griggs, a 26-year-old Barrington native who split last year between the Central Hockey League and the Southern Professional Hockey League, had 4 saves.
“There wasn’t a goalie I didn’t like out there,” Anderson said.
The Wolves have addressed a shortage of defensemen by inviting a pair of proven NHL veterans to camp. Brent Sopel, who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and has 659 NHL regular-season games on his resume, and Steve McCarthy, who played for the Wolves in 2009-10 after spending parts of eight seasons in the NHL, performed well during the scrimmage.
The Wolves will pull another practice/workout/scrimmage triple play on Tuesday before starting a stretch of four exhibitions in four days on Wednesday at Iowa.
The Wolves host their 21st season opener on Saturday, Oct. 11, at Allstate Arena against the Charlotte Checkers. There are still tickets available for the opener by visiting ChicagoWolves.com or calling 1-800-THE-WOLVES.