Wichita, KS (Oct. 8th) - The Wichita Thunder opened up training camp on Monday, and four days in are in already seeing the effects of a Kevin McClelland training camp. Camps always based around fundamentals, and cardio. The one big question mark, is not necessarily which players will be on the Opening Night roster, but rather how this team will bounce back after missing the playoffs by seven points, their first year in the ECHL. However, if one thing is for certain, McClelland will put players on the ice who contend to win night in and night out.
The Thunder will return Todd Hosmer, Kenton Miller, Dalton Reum, Danick Gauthier, Ian Lowe, Erick Lizon, Dan Milan, and Grant Rollheiser. The biggest difference in this year's roster is the change of on the back end. Dan Milan and Dalton Reum are the lone returning blue-liners. Last year, the Thunder gave up 240 goals, seventh worst in the ECHL. A change in defensive personnel will most likely change that stat in the upcoming season.
On the opposite side, the Thunder returns four of their top five scorers from last season. A combined 88 goals of the 213 scored last year came from Danick Gauthier, Ian Lowe, Todd Hosmer, and Kenton Miller. Gauthier, Hosmer, and Lowe were all 20 goal scorers. The addition of Anthony Deluca, a rookie out of the QMJHL with the Rimouski Oceanic, who scored 101 goals over three years in the QMJHL, should add to the offensive fire power that is being brought back. The late additions of Joey Sides and Michael Neal will make for some tough roster decisions leading up to Opening Night. Neal, whose brother James plays with the Nashville Predators, was a fifth round draft pick of the Dallas Stars.
Returning between the pipes for his third season is Grant Rollheiser. He was a mid-season acquisition who posted six wins in thirteen games, including a shutout. Joining Rollheiser is David Shantz, who played college hockey for the University of New Brunswick last year, where he won 18 out of the 23 games he started. If Shantz can re-gain his professional form, for which he was a second round draft pick, the Thunder should have a very solid tandem in the crease this year.
Many questions will be asked about who will make the opening night roster. None of those questions are for me to answer. The one thing that can be said about the training camp roster is that changes were made in the places needed, to help improve a team that narrowly missed the playoffs last year. A full off-season of preparation for the ECHL, and the knowledge that McClelland can make roster changes that most always bolster the roster, should give Thunder fans a good feeling walking into Intrust Bank Arena for opening night.
Contributed by Zach Courter