With practice beginning last week, the Owls’ have until Sept. 9 to make an impression on new coach Roman Bussetti before the roster is set.
A common element of Bussetti’s practices is the puck relay drills the players go through which focuses on puck handling and speed. In a new twist Wednesday night, the players practiced passing the puck back-and-forth and went through a drill where they passed the puck between three teammates as they skated.
“I believe you can never stop developing your skills and becoming a better hockey player,” Bussetti said. “It’s like that old Snickers commercial. If you’re satisfied, you’re done. If you keep working to get better and improve your skills, you’re going to take that work ethic into your game and you’re going to play harder, you’re going to play smarter and it’s going to help your overall goal.”
The Owls’ defense was sharp Wednesday night as the blue liners stopped forwards in most of the one-on-one and two-on-one drills. Goalie Scott Salamon began practice by stopping 11 of 15 shots and then came back later to stop 20 of 24 shots on net.
“The first practice the defense did get the better of it starting off, but as the night goes on, legs get a little tired and skating backwards gets a little tedious,” sophomore defenseman Matt Maratea said. “The forwards start to chip a little bit more by you and keep that straight-line speed going. It’s pretty evenly strength I’d say. We have a real good group of guys as forwards and defenseman.”
Practice time was extended as Owls practiced from 8:15 to 11 p.m. Last year’s practices rarely ran more than an hour.
The players engaged in off-ice workouts in the their locker rooms from 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. by working out in their locker rooms by doing plank push-ups, step-ups, sit-ups and planks.
“Off ice training is a big part of the game as far as I’m concerned,” Bussetti said. “The game they play is a two and-a-half to a three-hour game and you’re only practicing for an hour. If you’re only practicing for an hour going into a three-hour game, [it] puts you at a deficit, so if I can get them here at 8:15 p.m. and do some dry-land, some training and work out then they get on the ice for an hour or an hour and 15 minute practice, now our practice went from an hour to two hours and 15 minutes. It’s more the length of a game, so if they’re able to go and practice for two and a half hours then playing a game shouldn’t be any more difficult.”
Practice finished up when Bussetti and his coaching staff split the Owls into two teams. The idea of the drill was for the players to go on the ice in three-man shifts and try to score five goals before the other side could. The group with senior forward Stephen Kennedy won 4-0.
MVP returns for half season.
With only nine credits remaining before graduation, Kennedy is unsure if he will be on the team when the spring semester begins in January.
The former Mid-Atlantic College Hockey Association MVP returns this season to a team playing in a new division and featuring a new coach and new players, but he is trying to embrace the transformation.
“A lot of changes, but we got go with what we have,” Kennedy said. “Frain was a good coach in my opinion, but I guess it was time for a change. I guess we’re going to find out, but it’s too early to tell.”
Regardless of how long Kennedy plays this season his teammates are encouraged by his return.
“That was the big question this summer,” sophomore forward Alex Kempinski said. “It was nice to see him when we came back for tryouts. He’s really the heart of our team. He’s got more than half our goals. He brings the leadership aspect. He has a lot of experience. A lot more than most of the guys. A great leader. Having him we can reach the next step. He just has presence in the locker room. Having him is really going to be a big help for our success this season.”
Last season, Kennedy tallied 36 goals, 24 assists and 60 points in 30 games. The senior, who already boasts individual accolades, hopes the team can find success in his final year.
“I just want to win something as a team,” Kennedy said. “It’s not really an individual serenade, but as my last season as a college student I want to win something as a team.”
Three new Owls have transferred to Temple this season. Sophomore forwards Kenny Orlando, Ryan Gilmartin, James Milanesi and sophomore Matt Maratea transferred from SUNY Canton, Neumann University, East Stroudsburg University and Burlington County Community College respectively.
Former goalie coach Todd Wood attended practice last week. Wood coached the netminders for 10 seasons.
Stephen Godwin can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr