A shiver-inducing chill rose through the air Monday morning at James Brown Arena as the Augusta RiverHawks opened their inaugural training camp.
Though the temperature drop came from the sheet of ice at their feet, the chill felt by the 23 minor leaguers came from the inside.
At least five of them won't make the final roster, and the competition to earn a spot on the team started early.
"You have to look at it as a job interview," goalie John Dorman said. "You just completely focus on doing what you have to do to make the team and nothing else."
Dorman was one of three goalies in camp Monday, but head coach Brad Ralph said he expects to bring in more later in the week when other teams holding training camps make their cuts. The RiverHawks can have as many as 30 in camp, but that list will be narrowed to 18 before the season starts.
"The biggest thing that they can do is compete," Ralph said. "Just compete and work hard and play with that tenacity that they would have in a game."
Ralph said the first wave of cuts could come Wednesday. Dorman, who was cut from a Central Hockey League camp last week, hopes to avoid the ax this time around.
"You have to come in here with the mindset that you're going to battle on every puck," he said. "I was cut already this season, and you just have to move on to the next opportunity."
Ralph, in his first year as a head coach, ran the players through a series of off-ice drills, testing for strength and conditioning, before a two-hour ice session that wrapped up at noon.
Even the players who stood out as the best on the ice Monday might not necessarily be guaranteed a spot on the team.
"There are still guys that are going to get cut from CHL and ECHL camps that we're going to keep an eye on," Ralph said. "I don't think some of the players were in the condition I was expecting them to be."
Ralph will lead the prospects through morning workouts and evening scrimmages over the next two days.
The team will play an exhibition game Friday night in Fayetteville, and local hockey fans will get their first look at the team Saturday night in a home exhibition game against Fayetteville.
The team's regular season will begin on the road with a Thursday night game in Fayetteville Oct. 21. The home opener will take place at James Brown Arena on Oct. 22.