Augusta RiverHawks captain Matt Auffrey, shaggy beard and all, shook off his summer rust at Monday’s morning practice.
The RiverHawks, last season’s Southern Professional Hockey League regular season champion, returned to the ice for the start of training camp. First-year coach Rob Miller will get a good look at his squad this week before trimming down his roster in advance of the season opener, Oct. 26 at Mississippi.
“We’ve got some skill already,” Auffrey said. “The practice went pretty smooth. So that means the puck is moving good.”
Augusta, which returns 10 players off last season’s 36-13-7 squad, held a team scrimmage Monday afternoon and will hold another one today.
The RiverHawks play exhibitions Friday at Columbus and Saturday at Fayetteville. By Sunday, Miller said the roster should be finalized.
“The exhibition games are pretty important to gauge a guy and how he plays in a game, and we have over 50 of them,” Miller said. “There’s some guys I brought in here who look good. And the returners, some of them look good.”
Goalie Peter Skoggård added: “We have a lot of returners, which is good. And we have a new coach with new thoughts. He can pick whatever player he wants and we can build from that.”
Martinez native Drew Slaton is one of 29 players in camp vying for a spot on the team.
The 21-year-old Slaton played with four teams in the North American Hockey League the past two seasons.
“Getting to live in your hometown and playing for your hometown team, what more could you ask for?” Slaton said about the possibility of making the team. “It’d be a good time to keep playing hockey and represent Augusta.”
The RiverHawks begin their home slate Friday, Nov. 2, against Fayetteville. The following night, the RiverHawks play host to Knoxville at James Brown Arena.