Some other bits and pieces from the first day of practice:
Just to be clear, there wasn’t a ton of contact in that first day of practice, so that’s not the reason why Joey Benik got injured. Benik landed awkwardly and broke his leg.
“You’re not out battling the first day,” Huskies coach Bob Motzko said. “You’re getting your timing. He just got tangled up and fell.”
GOOD REPORTS ON OFFSEASON CONDITIONING
The Huskies were 7-2-1 down the stretch before their loss to North Dakota at the WCHA Final Five. That and, what sounds like a strong offseason, has the team itching to play its first game.
“We came back after a great offseason that started last spring. It started last spring with great leadership and a committed group of guys,” Motzko said. “But how many teams are there in Division I hockey? 59? I’m sure there’s 59 other teams that are saying the same thing. Guys look great, spirits are up.
“We had a lot of underclassmen (last season) and you can really see some improvement in the areas you wanted to see it, from a lot of guys.”
SOME MORE ON LeBLANC’s RETURN
Drew LeBlanc looked very good in practice Saturday. He’s moving and cutting very well and his passing shows no sign of rust. His return has the team excited, not only because of the player he is, but the type of person he is.
“We felt sick last year — for any of your players — to go through that,” Motzko said of the coaching staff. “He had an opportunity to go pro (after his junior season) and stayed in college. You want to see all the things that were supposed to happen for him come his way now. I still think that’s one of the reasons he’s here — he’s got unfinished business. That’s when it works at our level right now. In a time and an era of guys wanting to get to the next level quickly — and there’s nothing wrong with that — there’s something special about playing in the now and where you’re at. I just believe he’s a guy driven by unfinished business. To have that leadership is going to be fun to watch.”
OK, so on the ice, what’s the difference with LeBlanc on the ice?
“He’s a tremendous special teams player. He’s a great center,” Motzko said. “Guys beg to play with him because of his passing ability. His hockey IQ is as high as it gets, it’s world class. He can change games. He makes his teammates better.
“On top of that, he’s just plain and simply one of the best all-around, quality individuals that I’ve been around. He’s the full package … The only thing is we want him to shoot more. That’s the flaw. But that’s every one of his coaches since pee-wees.”
For those of you who follow the team closely, you know that lines change quite regularly during the season, particularly the first half of the season. But here’s what the lines looked like to start with on Saturday morning:
Ben Hanowski-Drew LeBlanc-Joey Benik
Jimmy Murray-Nic Dowd-Brooks Bertsch
Garrett Milan-Cory Thorson-David Morley
Nick Oliver-Joey Rehkamp-Jonny Brodzinski
T.J. Belisle-Kalle Kossila-Joey Holka
Andrew Prochno-Nick Jensen
Kevin Gravel-Jarrod Rabey
Brandon Burrell-Taylor Johnson
Tim Daly-Ethan Prow
After Benik got hurt, Morley was skating on the line with LeBlanc and Hanowski.
Don’t write any of those in stone. The Huskies are likely to use dozens of combinations during the season, but it’s interesting.