The Allen Americans opened "official" training camp on Monday. According to new forward Mike Kompon, some of the guys had been in Allen for a while skating, getting their legs under them and getting to know their new mates. There is a sense of unfinished business with the way the last season ended surrounding the team in Allen, and expectations are high going into the new year.
After winning a combined 108 games in their first two seasons of existence, the Americans are not becoming complacent - they went into the offseason with a specific purpose of building a team that will challenge for the elusive league championship. Coach Dwight Mullins said they wanted to ice a young and energetic team for the coming year. They want to also offer the best opportunity for the advancement of their hockey players, and their affiliations with the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars organizations gives their players chances for career advancement.
After the jump, a look at the beginning of training camp, the Allen Americans' philosophy for the season, and some fun interactions from forwards Mike Kompon and Jason Deitch during a media Q&A session.
On the ice for the first session, Coach Mullins pushed the guys hard to learn the "quick" and "pacey" style of hockey they want to play this year. Skating slow was not an option - as he put it "summer is over, boys!" Those that were too slow were called out for it. Mullins pulls no punches, constantly offering up ways to improve to different members of the training camp roster. Even the "veteran" guys, the ones fans will recognize from last season, are not above reproach.
The biggest story for Allen this season is their goaltending situation. The Americans have three goalies on their roster camp: Rejean Beauchemin (former Philadelphia Flyers draft pick), James Reid (currently still with ECHL Lake Erie Monsters on call-up with no ETA on return to Allen) and Brian Mahoney-Wilson (stalled by injuries much of his senior season in Lake Superior State University.) The coaching staff made a tough decision at the end of last season to trade fan favorite Chris Whitley's rights to Wichita, a move that surprised many fans in Allen this past summer. After watching the goalies on ice during the first day of camp, the Americans should have some solid goaltending, with Beauchemin impressing me the most from the admittedly small sample size I saw.
A really interesting Q&A session with forward Mike Kompon occurred during the 2011-2012 Media Faceoff Day, following speeches by Coach Mullins and Allen mayor Steve Terrell. Kompon, a former Miami University Redhawk, spent five seasons playing for Munich EHC in Germany. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native is very happy to be back in North America, even if he has to adjust to a smaller ice surface and more physical style of hockey than what is played in Europe.
When put on the spot to say "Good Afternoon" in German, Kompon said "Gute Nacht" - which actually means "good night". After the Q&A session, Kompon made it a point to say it's actually "guten Mittag" that he should have said so that everyone wouldn't think he's an idiot (which he probably could have gotten away with that slip up here in Texas where most people took Spanish in school - I just happened to have taken 3 years of German instead and recognized the misstep immediately.)
Jason Deitsch also took part in the Q&A session. Formerly the cross-town rival Texas Brahamas' captain, Deitsch was asked what it was going to be like to go into the Texas Brahama's home arena for the first time as the enemy. He said he's surely going to get some boos from people over there, but more or less just shrugged it all off as part of the business. When asked why he chose the Allen Americans to sign with, he complimented the organization on their professional facilitites and professional handling of players.
Both Kompon and Deitsch seemed ready to get the season going, much like the rest of the guys are. Allen continues training camp through this week, holding an open to the public practice tonight at 7 PM at the Allen Event Center. They'll hold their preseason games on Friday at home versus the Texas Brahamas and then Saturday night at Texas.
Next week, an update on how the roster is coming together and a look forward to opening night.