Tips camp opens fast, intense

EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips opened main training camp with a flying start Monday.

Literally.

Everett’s veterans took to the ice at Comcast Arena for the first time Monday, and after just one day it’s clear that the name of the game for the upcoming 2007-08 Western Hockey League season is speed.

“It was really fast,” defenseman Jonathan Harty said about the first day’s play. “We had a fast practice this morning and the coaches are emphasizing speed. I think it really got through to the guys.”

A total of 45 players took part in Monday’s activities. That didn’t include Peter Mueller, who’s home resting a groin injury in preparation for attending camp with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, or Zach Hamill and Leland Irving, who are in Russia for the Canada-Russia Super Series.

Those who are here were split into two teams, with each team practicing in the morning and the teams scrimmaging in the evening. And each one of those sessions saw the players flying around the ice.

“I thought the play was unbelievably fast,” Everett coach John Becanic said. “Now that could be because I watched rookie camp for five days. But when we tested the players it was by far the fastest group of players we’ve had in the five-year history here. Hopefully that translates into how they play the game.”

Everett is hoping speed can help the team erase the bad memories of how last season ended. The Tips went into the playoffs with the best record in the WHL and ranked No. 1 in the entire Canadian Hockey League. However, they were upset in the second round by Prince George, losing the final game of the series 8-2.

“I think everyone’s excited for the year,” Harty said. “We were disappointed in last year’s ending and I think everybody wants to get started early and take it to the end.”

As a result, the first day of camp was highly competitive. In addition to that eye-catching speed, there was plenty of hitting going on during the scrimmage. It was a welcome sight from a team that’s had questions about its physical play in recent seasons.

“It was a good, hard scrimmage,” said left wing Brennan Sonne, who dished out his share of hits and also scored what proved to be the winning goal as Team Green beat Team Grey 5-3. “When it’s your first scrimmage in a while you’re always kind of rusty and your hands are off. But all in all I thought it was good and physical, I think everybody saw the physicality out there.”

That was music to Becanic’s ears.

“I absolutely loved it,” Becanic said of the scrimmage. “I thought it was physical like a playoff game. I thought the intensity was exactly where we’d asked them to have the intensity, and I thought every single guy out there competed hard. I didn’t see anybody slouching.”

Becanic listed defensemen Dane Crowley and Taylor Ellington as two of the standouts from the first day. He was also impressed with Ondrej Fiala’s recovery from knee surgery as the left wing from the Czech Republic looked to be at full speed.

Becanic was also happy with the way the rookies, who just endured four grueling days of rookie camp, were able to keep up with the veterans.

“I thought they did pretty good,” Becanic said. “These guys have had eight ice sessions since last Wednesday and these guys are exhausted, so I thought they did a good job.”

Camp continues with the same schedule today and Wednesday, scrimmages open to the public free of charge at 5 p.m. Camp concludes with the fourth annual Everett Silvertips Preseason Tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

After that the Tips will have to begin making decisions about personnel, and it doesn’t appear those decisions are going to be easy.

“It’s been high tempo and a lot of physical play,” Harty said. “No one wants to go home and everyone wants to stay. No one wants to make the coaches’ job easy.”

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