By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Tuesday, July 19, 2011
When the Coulee Region Chill decide a final roster, they mean it.
That's why the next five days are not only big for a group of about 75 skaters and goaltenders trying to make the 2011-12 Chill roster, they're important to the team's front office and coaching staff.
The Chill's final tryout camp runs Wednesday through Sunday at the OmniCenter. There will be nine practice sessions or games, culminating with All-Star Games on Saturday night and Sunday. The 25-man roster will be finalized Sunday afternoon.
"This camp is fun because you're picking your team," Chill coach Garrett Strot said.
The Chill ended last season with 23 players from the original July 2010 roster, making only one major move in-season – acquiring forward Jakob Batcha from Fargo (USHL) in January -and trading or releasing three other players.
That made the Chill by far the least-active team in terms of trades. Two teams made 19 moves between Jan. 1 and March 27 and another made eight moves in three days.
The blueprint worked as the Chill went 33-20-5 and advanced to the second round of the NAHL playoffs.
So Strot plans on putting a lot of stock in what he, new assistant coach Jake Fleming, general manager Rick Wesp and scouting director Dan Strot see from the assembled talent this week.
"Obviously it comes down to scouting; we've seen some of these guys for a couple of years," Strot said. "We're making sure we bringing in the right guys and having a good core. We'll have the same philosophy of maintaining and not making many changes."
Three of the Chill's seven draft picks will be in camp, including first-round (18th overall) pick Mac Jansen, a 5-feet-10, 190-pound forward from White Bear Lake, Minn., who scored 56 points (38 goals-18 assists) this past season.
Forward Myles Maltz (Lansing U-18) and goaltender Austin Schmid (Peoria NA3HL) are the other draft picks trying out.
Eight tender contract players, including forwards Micah Ranum (Thief River Falls, Minn.) and Cory Lushanko (Chisago Lakes, Minn.), whom the Chill acquired the rights to when they traded Chris Hughes to Michigan in the off-season, also will be in camp.
"We've seen most of them and know what they can do," Strot said.
Thirteen veterans return, led by defenseman Matt Blomquist, who has committed to NCAA Division I Bentley for the 2012-13 season, forward David Ripple (42 points) and goaltender Aaron Davis (11-4-1, 3.13 GAA).
Five of the Chill's top six forwards have moved on.
"I think we've got to look for the guys who played last year to replace those guys," Strot said. "They should step up and the new guys take over their roles."
Strot said the format for the final seven sessions will be scrimmages.
"We're going to split into six 12-man teams and have shorter games and stay up-tempo and let everyone get a lot of ice time," he said. "That's how we'll decide it."