WHEELING - With damp, chilly conditions hovering in the Ohio Valley on Monday, it seemed fitting the Wheeling Nailers opened training camp, and with it their 20th anniversary season. Fall just began, but winter isn't far behind.
There wasn't much to deduce from the opening day of action at WesBanco Arena, but enough took place to leave Coach Stan Drulia in a satisfied mood.
''We got a little sloppy there, but the ice got pretty bad,'' he said after a session that last a little more than an hour. ''I thought overall the speed got going and we started moving pretty good.
Wheeling Nailers coach Stan Drulia, right, directs the first day of preseason workouts Monday.
Photo by Shawn Rine
''That's our first practice and that was nice.
''Overall, I was pretty happy with Day 1.''
Drulia and new assistant coach Clark Donatelli jumped right into teaching mode as the club worked on faceoffs. There were drills aplenty as 15 skaters and nine defensemen took part, but there was a decided difference in the amount of instruction that went on during Drulia's first day last year, and what occurred Monday.
''Last year I didn't know anybody,'' Drulia said. ''It's nice that there's some familiar faces that know what we're all about.''
Players that participated Monday that were on last season's Eastern Conference Final-qualifying squad are forwards Chris Minella, Mikael Bedard, and Tim and Paul Crowder. They were joined by goaltender Patrick Killeen. That number figures to increase substantially in the next few days as American Hockey League teams make their final roster cuts.
In fact, expected to be on the ice today are holdovers such as defensemen Kyle Bushee, Zach Hansen and Peter Merth, as well as forward Chris Kushneriuk. Newcomers scheduled to arrive include Jeff Terminesi who caught on for four games with Victoria at the end of last season after a four-year career at Mercyhurst, as well as Patrick Johnson and Steven Terasuk.
Also practicing Monday were defensemen Joe Tolles, Gentry Zollars, Chad Langlais, Tim Priamo, and Carl Hudson, who while playing for Cincinnati last season, famously got into a fight with Wheeling goaltender Peter Delmas. Additional forwards that took part include Denver Manderson, T.J. Battani, Zack Torquato, Ben Farrer and Sean O'Malley.
Goaltender Alex Kangas, who played four years at Minnesota, also worked out.
''I didn't sign a lot of guys,'' Drulia said. ''We just added a couple guys on tryouts that are in the area and planning on going to Denver in the Federal League.
''I was just trying to get our numbers up - I don't want guys playing three games, Thursday-Friday-Saturday.''
The practice was a brisk one, with a lot of attention to detail. It lasted almost an hour less than was scheduled, but Drulia said he got the things accomplished he had hoped.
''I take a lot of pride in trying to run a good practice. We don't just come in here at 10 o'clock and go 'OK, let's do this today,' '' Drulia said. ''Those guys went hard.
''We went 15 guys on the ice and they were going up and down the ice. If you count how many laps we did in the hour we were out there, it's pretty high.''
The Nailers, who begin preseason action Friday in Johnstown, then play Friday at WesBanco and Saturday in Cincinnati - all against the Cyclones - could be receiving more help from their affiliates in Wilkes-Barre and Hamilton. Injuries in the former's camp leave the status of guys like Brandon DeFazio, Cody Chupp and Chris Barton up in the air.
Wheeling expects to at least receive a goaltender from Hamilton.
''At least this week, for sure'' those guys won't be here,'' Drulia said. ''That's why we made a couple calls (Sunday) night to bring in a couple guys on tryouts that were in the area, just to get our numbers up to where I thought they might be.
''I'd rather Wilkes-Barre keep my guys now.''