When the Owls hit the ice for for the first night of tryouts Monday, their coach suited up with them.
Roman Bussetti last played hockey in 1993 for West Chester University at the Division I level, but he rekindled memories of his playing days when the strapped on his pads and laced up his skates Monday night.
“I like to think of myself as being a player’s coach,” Bussetti said. “I know Jimmy Johnson used to get involved in football running around the field and yelling at the guys. I try to be more on the ice, but come Wednesday I’ll probably start on the ice, but then end off the ice to do a little more evaluating. And then, on Thursday I’ll probably be helping with drills and such.”
Bussetti put the 33 roster hopefuls through the familiar routine of cycling the ice, but then had the players skate the length of the ice in a puck relay.
The Owls then went through one-on-one attempts to score on returning goalie Scott Salamon and his four backups. The skaters later challenged the goalies with two-on-one and three-on-one attempts
Bussetti employed other drills like races for the puck and slap shots at the men between the goal pipes.
Sophomore forward Eric Graham did not notice a difference in practice from Bussetti and former coach, Ryan Frain.
“Both times we got into a little bit of skating and then we got into some drills,” Graham said. “Obviously [Bussetti] has different drills then that, but aside from that it is relatively the same.”
Four is more
The coaching staff for Bussetti is nearly set. He is accompanied by four assistant coaches.
Tom Plunkett and Ryan Mcaneny will coach the offense, Jim Farrell will be in charge of the forwards and Andy Ross will lead the defense.
“The thought process is that I have to have as many guys as I can to make sure we’re covered for all the games and stuff,” Bussetti said. “A lot of the guys are coaching other teams and stuff, so I have to make sure I have a good rotation of guys who can help me assist on the bench.”
Plunkett coaches the 16 to 18-year-old midget teams for the Blazers Youth Hockey Club at the Flyers Skate Zone, where Bussetti is the general manager.
“He has set pretty high expectations for us and a lot of responsibility toward us as well,” Plunkett said.
The Owls are already missing eight players from last season’s opening-day team. On the first day of tryouts two more were absent.
Senior forward Cody Vassa and defenseman Anthony Civitella pulled out from this year’s squad for personal reasons.
Their departures mean a loss of 69 goals, 88 assists and 160 points are missing from last season.
“The two guys that aren’t here I can’t say anything about because I can only work with what I have,” Bussetti said. “So the fact they’re not here is somewhat disappointing, but at the same token, I don’t like to beg people to play. If you want to play hockey and it’s in your blood. You’re there.”
Bussetti has not picked a captain yet, but could be deciding on a veteran soon.
Last season’s most valuable player and top forward, Stephen Kennedy, will play the whole 2015-16 season. Kennedy was previously set to only play until December.
Stephen Godwin Jr can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr