The Owen Sound Attack really never got on track until just before the playoffs last season.
“And we took the best team in the country to seven games,” reminded head coach Todd Gill on Friday.
Injuries, national team commitments, and roster shortfalls had the Attack shorthanded for much of the 2017-18 campaign until just before the end of the regular season.
This year, Gill hopes the veteran team can stay healthy and get rolling early.
“We’re in good shape if everybody comes back from pro camps,” he said following the team’s Red & White scrimmage at the Bayshore. “I’m excited, but I never put the cart before the horse.”
Unless the National Hockey League comes calling the Attack are set to return their top-four scorers and top-five defenceman from a season ago. They could even keep Cole Cameron around as a fourth-overage player to provide some veteran depth on the back-end until mid-season.
The possibilities have been rolling around in Gill’s mind all summer.
“It never really leaves you, you know? You’re riding the lawn tractor and thinking, who can I put here? Should I try that?”
“You just go with your gut.”
Friday night was the last chance for the rookies and free agents to make an impression on the Attack brass.
One downside to Owen Sound’s relative roster stability is a lack of opportunity for new faces.
“We’ve got some good prospects there, and we’ve got some tough decisions that’s for sure,” said Gill. “There are some kids that might not be here that have the ability to be here.”
One rookie who has looked solid in camp is 2017 fourth-round pick Alec Lovisek who opened the scoring for Team Red.
Lovisek’s backhand squeaked through a surprised and perhaps slightly screened Mack Guzda for the game’s first goal.
German import Manuel Alberg continued his impressive first training camp with a quick pivoting shot which beat Guzda low and put Team Red up 2-0.
Team White finally got on the board when Nick Suzuki found Daylon Groulx streaking down the wing with a back-door pass and Groulx made no mistake deking backhand and shovelling the puck into the top of the open net behind Nathan Torchia.
In the scrimmage’s second 30-minute half Maksim Sushko’s screaming wrist shot into the top-corner brought back Bayshore memories and gave Team Red a 3-1 cushion.
Jackson Dorherty’s long and low shot made it 4-1 moments later.
Kaleb Pearson, who was acquired via trade and signed on with the Attack during camp, scored Team White’s second goal by capping off a two-on-zero rush with Kevin Hancock.
Ontario Hockey League goals won’t all be that easy.
Team Red pulled their goalie at the four-minute mark and Chase Campbell salted the game away with an empty net goal.
Owen Sound opens the exhibition season on Sunday at home against the Sudbury Wolves with game time scheduled for 2 p.m.