STOCKTON, Calif. – The Stockton Thunder held their free agent try-outs over the past weekend, with the promise that at least one forward, one defenseman, and a goaltender would be invited to attend Thunder training camp next weekend. About 32 player hopefuls from all over the United States, Canada, and even as far as Slovakia arrived to demonstrate their potential before Coach Matt Thomas beginning last Friday evening.
During the three-day experience, the candidates faced a series of drills and scrimmages, while Thomas weighed their skills. On the second day the intensity increased with fewer drills and more four-on-four scrimmages. Players exhibited their talent and desire by following through with checks, heavy pressure on both ends of the ice, while trying to show they could shoot and score. The third and final day, Thomas had them continue playing, four-on-four, and then five-on-five.
A pair of players dropped the gloves in a short tussle. Jeff Dill, a 22 year old Linden, California native (Linden is a small farming community about 10 miles east of Stockton) was one of them.
“It’s just part of hockey,” he said, hoping it would add to his ability to stand out from the other players. Afterwards Dill and Nathan Ryan West congratulated one another on their efforts.
Thomas was pleased with the overall caliber of players that participated in the try-outs for an opportunity to advance to the Thunder Training Camp. Thomas told them during a short break in the action that he saw potential in many of them, but some needed more time to fine tune their skill sets to play at this level. In the end, the players were provided honest feedback on their skills and abilities.
Getting an invitation is what this tryout was all about and eleven players received what they had hoped for.
Sterling Bear – Martensville, Saskatchewan
Balazs Deifik -Tujunga, California
Tristan Lysko – Burlington, Ontario
Marcus Mitchell – Champaign, Illinois
Alexander Molnar – Lynnfield, Massachusetts
David Watson – Lodi, California
Evan Mackintosh – San Jose, California
Aaron Atwell – Toronto, Ontario
Mark Freedman -Thornhill, Ontario
Eric Galt – Fargo, North Dakota
Ryan Fitzsimmons – Redwater, Alberta
Some of the hopefuls brought family members to root them on from the stands, braving the cold arena benches and frequently shouting their approval or advice from the sidelines. While the players waited their fate after the try-outs, parents anxiously awaited on pins and needles, some pacing, other just talking quietly together. Such is the life of hockey parents they joked.
For those that made to the next level, many have been in this position before. There is still much more work to be done to prove they deserve a shot in the pros.
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