attack-fullbBy Tracey Richardson

Attack rookies and a handful of veterans got their first taste of 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League action this weekend in two pre-season games that revealed there's still a lot of work to be done.

"I think we've got a good group here, I really do," said head coach Greg Ireland after Sunday's 5-2 home loss to the Barrie Colts. "I just think, more than anything, we have a lot more work to do. . . The great thing of it is, it's September, and we've got a long time to work on it all, so it doesn't discourage me, that's for sure."

attack-featOn Monday, the Attack visited Barrie, where they lost 4-3.

The battle for a roster spot is on among the 29 players left after training camp ended last Friday night. Goaltenders Brandon Hope, Jack Flinn and Michael McNiven are fighting for the two spots in net, while a gaggle of eight rookies are trying to earn a spot, including possibly knocking a couple of veterans off their perch.

Ireland said that with just two more exhibition games left, the players will come under even greater scrutiny.

A few more cuts are likely this week.

"Again, those opportunities, they dwindle. For me, even if the guys are here, for me I want to see who wants to play, who wants to be in the lineup every night."

Sunday's home game saw the Attack outshot by Barrie 50-33, with Flinn and McNiven sharing the goaltending. Keenan Reynolds, a 16-year-old fourth round pick, scored the Attack's first goal of the game. Captain Zach Nastasiuk scored the other.

Ireland tried to get his rookies to relax before the game. "I just told them to play. It's the same game, same ice surface. I really thought guys like Keenan Reynolds and Kevin Hancock didn't have any backdown, they played hard, they did a good job. It was nice to see that."

However, penalty trouble and some defensive lapses proved costly for the Attack, and Ireland conceded the team was outworked.

attack-fulla"As an organization, we're hard working and gritty, but we weren't that tonight," Ireland said. "I know guys are going to be rusty, I know the passes are going to be off, I know the hands aren't going to be there, but you can work hard. We've had a whole week to get our feet going. You get your feet going, you can win pucks. You can skate back into your own end harder, you can get on the forecheck harder. Those are the things for me that I think some guys really need to absorb. I'm not very tolerant of that sort of play, so I think it's got to change and change quickly."

In Barrie on Monday, McNiven and Hope split net duties. Ethan Szypula scored twice for the Attack, and Thomas Schemitsch added the other marker.

Second round pick Jonah Gadjovich and Finnish import Petrus Palmu are nursing injuries, and it's unclear when they'll see their first action. Veteran Jaden Lindo continues to rehabilitate his knee in off-ice activities only, and Jeffrey Gilligan left Sunday's game with an injury.

The Attack concludes its exhibition season on the weekend, with a home game Saturday at 2 p.m. against North Bay, then Sunday in North Bay at 6 p.m.

The season opener happens Sept. 24 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre against the Kitchener Rangers at 7 p.m.



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