Zagreb Medvescak hockey players have finished the first phase of training camp in Zagreb heading into the new 2016/2017 KHL season.
“We broke down our training camp into a couple of phases. In the initial phase there are some players who are familiar with the environment, some of the players are familiar with the staff and/or returning teammates and then there are new guys adjusting to our group. In this phase we wanted to graduate our players as healthy as possible throughout the preseason and we shaped the practices to give them the best opportunity to be successful,” head coach Gordie Dwyer explained the plan.
Despite a demanding tempo and hard work both on and off the ice, an excellent and lighthearted mood runs through camp.
“City’s beautiful, my teammates are awesome. For as new guys, coming in to a new country, meeting new players, new friends is an adjustment. But everybody wants to work hard and do well at the start. It’s a slow process, we have to take it one day at a time and try to get better every time we touch the ice. We’re working really hard, we have a really good coaching staff and the overall atmosphere is great,” conveyed the state of the locker-room new Bears forward Francis Pare.
Ivan Jankovic shares a similar opinion: ”The atmosphere seems better from the very start than last year because of all the returning players. There is no tension, we all know each other and the new guys just fell in with the group. It’s hard to explain, but it’s natural. The atmosphere is great, and when you have that, everyone works better and harder, and I think the coach is happier with us.”
And how happy and satisfied head coach really is, he explained with a smile on his face: “It’s been a real competitive training camp so far and that’s what we wanted to create. The players returning to our line-up have certainly returned in great shape, ready to compete and with an understanding of what our expectations are. The new guys have done a good job as well, of establishing themselves. I think that that compete level and that internal competition of who’s going to get certain opportunities, throughout the season or to start the season with our club, is strong and is certainly good to see as a coach.”
Nobody doubts that the tempo and demands will only go up as the camp progresses. “It will be hard. I’m expecting hard work from everyone. Every time we touch the ice, we’re going to touch-in some system and try to get better. Every team does that, everyone wants to get ready and better for the season,” Pare regards.
Fine-tuning and working on their respective position got a new meaning for Mark Katic this season. In his fourth season with the club, Katic finds himself on the list of forwards.
“I feel pretty good as a forward. I’ve played up front a few times the last two seasons. It’s a bit new to me, to go through training camp as a forward. There are some things I have to get used to, but all in all, I feel pretty good about the change and I’m looking forward to starting the season,” Katic said.
During camp in Velesajam the team split into Team White and Team Blue for a scrimmage. “It was good to get back into game situation, especially at a new position. I haven’t played a game in five months, so I was a little bit confused where to go sometimes, but as the course of the game went on, I got better, and the guys got better as a team.”
Katic couldn’t avoid talking about the state of the team: “We’re all getting along very well, we’re joking around, having some fun and working really hard at the same time. Seems like we have a god group of guys and we should be very competitive this year,” concluded Katic.
The Bears will spend the next 20 days on the road. With longer stays in the Czech Republic and Wales, they will make short trips to Bratislava and Graz and play a total of six exhibition games. The first one is scheduled for today (Tuesday) against Avangard (Omsk).