After a long November, I decided to head to practice and see how the Monsters were shaping up for the start of December.
There were a few players wearing Red Sweaters the past two practices. Zac Dalpe, Blake Siebenaler, Miles Koules, and Bobby MacIntyre were all wearing the “no contact” red sweaters. Siebenaler has not been playing much this season due to an undisclosed injury. He looks good and is able to play aggressively without contact. I would assume he will be back sometime in December.
Dalpe hasn't seen ice time since sacrificing his body to stop a shot on November 25th against the Texas Stars. He looks very quick despite the injury.
Koules only participated in one-on-one practice on the 6th. Today, he took part in almost every drill during practice.
Sonny Milano and Jacob Graves are back with the Monsters. Milano looked very happy and rather comfortable to be back with his former teammates. A lot of his practice time was spent with Nick Moutrey, John Ramage, Andre Benoit, Joe Pendenza, and Alex Broadhurst. Warp speed and a flurry of skill is truly the only way to describe what happens when Pendenza, A.Broadhurst, and Milano play together. After watching practice, I would say this will be the line which gets the most minutes this coming weekend.
Graves is playing like he never left the Monsters. He is in good form and looks very sharp on the ice. To top it off, his chemistry with the team is off the charts.
The Monsters have a bit of work to do when it comes to passing and hesitation. Their close range passes look a lot better than they did in November. They are crisp, clean, and tape-to-tape. Cross ice passing on the other hand did not look good yesterday. However, there was a big improvement in cross ice passing today. It's clear the team is getting better at knowing where each other is located while on the ice.
Yesterday, there was a lot of hesitation from many players before passing or shooting the puck. This led to a slow down in play as well as goal chances being wiped away. I don't know if this is a confidence thing or if the players are trying to envision all the possible outcomes of what they are about to do.
Dean Kukan, Carter Camper, and Paul Bittner read each other very well. While practice was winding down they can be found practicing passes and shots with each other.
Coming into December one of the things the Monsters needed to work on were rebounds. Terry Broadhurst is great at positioning himself to scoop up a rebound or redirect a shot into the net. Both Sam Vigneault and Moutrey are great at planting their big bodies in front of the net to block the view of the opposing goalie. I've seen them do it a few times during the game but during practice it's something they focus on. I hope to see more positive rebound positioning and goalie view distraction from these three this coming weekend.
This team is fun to watch. While the Monsters know they have to produce on the ice, they also know they can't stress themselves out. The Monsters do their best when they both play hard and laugh hard.
Based on their celebration, every time they score a goal in practice you would think they just scored a game-winning goal in overtime. If they miss a goal, they don't allow their teammate to beat themselves up. This hardworking yet light and exciting attitude will translate to success on the ice eventually.
After sitting through two practices, I think there is little to worry about this upcoming weekend against the Wolves.
If you ever go to practice, make sure you stay until the end. You might just see a Moutrey vs Gallant play fight.