LETHBRIDGE - With the dog days of summer winding down, hockey season is right around the corner as the Lethbridge Hurricanes get ready to start training camp.
Rookie camp gets underway tonight (Aug. 24), but before that the veterans on the team took questions from the media before hitting the ice this morning for a skate. Reflecting on last year's run to Eastern Conference finals, the players know expectations will be higher heading into this season. Center Giorgio Estephan says it's an exciting time of year to be back at the rink, and seeing all the guys again. Estephan led the Hurricanes in scoring during the playoffs, with 24 points in 18 games.
When it comes to building on last season, he says they're always pushing to get better.
"Obviously we had a good year last year, but we're looking to win a championship here. I know that a lot of us have talked about the expectations we have for ourselves, let alone the expectations other people are going to have for the team now."
With former captain Tyler Wong moving on, players like Estephan will be looked at to fill the leadership void on the Hurricanes and it's something he's looking forward to.
"We've got good leaders on this team still, a lot of guys who have played in the league for a couple of years now. Being a leader means showing up in big moments, like Wong last year scoring the game winner in overtime of Game 7 against the Medicine Hat Tigers," said Estephan, adding that he learned a lot from Wong, and hopes to emulate his former teammate.
Another player the Hurricanes will be counting on this year is center Jordy Bellerive. The former second overall pick in the 2014 WHL draft scored 27 goals and added 29 assists in 70 games last season, and added another 7 goals and 7 assists in 20 playoff games.
Bellerive says the summer went by quick, and it was a tough one for everyone because they were working hard.
"We were all thinking about what happened last year in the back of our heads, so we're excited to come back and get a fresh start," said Bellerive, who lost 10 pounds during training over the summer in an attempt to get leaner, and faster on the ice.
"I think it was a theme for most of the guys when they were training, we want to be a quick, attacking team so we can take the next step this season. Early on I think it's important to find some chemistry with guys, find a line that clicks and put some pucks in the net."
Estephan will also be attending NHL camp with the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2015, while Bellerive will head to camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent.
As far as Hurricanes training camp is concerned, rookie camp will continue for the next day and a half, culminating with the rookies game on Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Main camp gets underway at 1 p.m. on Saturday, when players will be broken up into three different teams for practises. Following the Saturday full of practise, Sunday and Monday will be filled with 45-minute-long-games between the three teams. A full schedule can be found here.
Training camp wraps up with the Red vs. White inter-squad game at 7 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 29).
The Hurricanes will kick off their pre-season schedule on Friday (Sept. 1) against the Medicine Hat Tigers at Nicolas Sheran Arena.
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