As the infamous section finished the song and the clacking noise of hockey sticks being hit on the ice took over, it became official; the start of hockey season was in fact here. The Danbury Whalers don’t begin until Oct. 27, but last Saturday’s 2nd Annual Green and White game, was just another step in putting together a final team to take on Chris Firriolo’s New Jersey Outlaws on opening night.
The Green and White game was a way for fans to see the free agents who went through the two-day camp on the ice in an actual game setting. It was also a way for Head Coach Phil Esposito and his training staff to make one last evaluation of the athletes.
“The talent that we had this weekend was a lot better than the talent we had in the camp prior to this,” said Esposito. “I mean the play tonight was a lot better than it was last time, but I attribute that to two things. The first thing is, a lot of times when you have those camps in June you have a lot of players that aren’t in very good shape yet because it’s the beginning of the summer and everybody’s been screwing around since they quit playing hockey in May. Now you’re getting into the September camp and guys are in way better shape now. and we also have more guys that are more committed to playing hockey at this level too where it’s getting to the short strokes where guys are getting ready and trying to find places to play so we get the better caliber of players.”
Thirty-one new players were split into two teams and joined by Whalers veterans, Lynn Beedle, Joe Dabkowski and Marty Moucha, whom assisted with the camp both Friday and Saturday.
The game, which was separated into two 25 minute halves, got off to a quick start with Matt Ferris netting an unassisted goal for the green team less than a minute into the first half. The green team took the lead early and managed to keep it, coming out on top, just barely 10-9.
Prior to the game there was buzz among the fans surrounding green team members, Greg Holt and Kevin McCready. Both players had already been signed to the Whalers organization and Saturday’s game was just a testament as to why.
With the score 1-1 in the first Holt notched his first goal of the night, unassisted, only to add to the score again less than four minutes later. With the assist going to McCready the score sat at 3-1 in favor of the green team.
Holt finished the game with a total of six points, three goals and three assists. It was apparent that chemistry was formed with McCready and Holt on the same line, and McCready ended the game with two goals and a single assist. Each of his goals were assisted by Holt, while his assist came from Holt’s second goal in the first.
The amount of offensive talent on the ice was able to be seen, as neither team was able to get comfortable with the lead. Every time the green team would score, the white team was right there to match it. Moucha led the white team with four points, but multiple players managed to get scoring opportunities.
While the offensive side of the game was on full display the physicality and defensive end was lacking.
“The only thing that really bugged me today was the physicality of it, there wasn’t too much of that. but I think the guys were more interested in trying to play hockey and the finesse style rather than the hitting style and we have our guys that do the hitting and stuff too so I’m sure it’ll pick up on October 27,” said Esposito.
Soon after the game was over and the players cleared the ice and headed back up into the team locker rooms. Some players were leaving that night, heading home to places like Alaska, Pennsylvania and Canada. The players leaving that night were faced with exit interviews from Esposito.
Less than ten players were asked back for the main training camp in October however only time will tell who the fans can see on the ice come opening night.
“I think the situation with what we have right now is, I think I’m gonna have to make some tough decisions,” said Esposito. “I mean we have some guys who’ve played here in the past that played here last year that … I don’t know if there’s gonna be room for them this year. So it’s one of those things where I’m gonna have to make decisions on some players, but I’d rather have to make those decisions than not have those decisions to make at all. It’s one of those situations that I’m gonna have to deal with at some point and I dread the day I’m gonna have to do it.”