Joseph Weise , right, defends his goal during a goalie hockey training camp at the Norway Savings Bank Arena on Wednesday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Goalies had the spotlight on day one of Twin City Thunder main camp on Wednesday at Norway Savings Bank Arena.

The team held two sessions where 39 goalies were split into two groups. Once on the ice, there were stations that each goalie went to where they would show off particular skills. Rebound control, compete level, working on their skating edges and handling the puck were some of the things the Thunder coaching staff was looking for.

Jacob Snellenburg, from the Rochester Vipers, runs through a drill with electronic pucks that signal where to quickly move to at the Norway Savings Bank Arena on Wednesday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

They will have another pair of goalie sessions Thursday morning before cutting the number of goalies down to 12 for the remainder of camp, which runs through Sunday.

There was one thing above all that co-owner and head coach Dan Hodge was looking for Wednesday during these goalie sessions.

“Just overall compete level, who you think is going to give you the best chance to win,” Hodge said. “It’s not easy because it’s just a short time, you kind of have to go on your gut on some guys. Again, it’s about the guys who have the compete level that you want out there.”

These practices are appreciated by the goalies, where some main camps are just scrimmage after scrimmage.

“You feel more confident as (the team) is evaluating you,” said Ben Hathaway, who was a goalie at Hebron Academy last year. “Some of the other goalie skates I have been to, the coaches weren’t even out there to watch. So, I appreciate having the opportunity to show myself in a different way that’s more focused on goalies rather than (just scrimmages).”

Hathaway, who lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said he has been to two other USPHL NCDC tryouts this summer with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers and the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. He also skated informally with the Thunder and the Maine Nordiques last season.

Kyle Bavis of Cincinnati, Ohio, who backstopped the Valencia Flyers and the Ontario Avalanche — both of  the Western States Hockey League — last season, believes the goaltending position is like the quarterback position in football.

“It’s nice to come to a camp like this where goalies take a priority. It’s the most important position on the ice,” Bavis said. “It’s good the coaches take that into account when they are looking at their team for the upcoming year.”

Bavis has bounced around a few camps this summer, as he got looks at the United States Hockey League level with the Omaha Lancers and Tri-City Storm. He also just attended the main camp for the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the North American Hockey League.

What also makes these goalie sessions work is having quality shooters, which allows goalies to show off their skills to the best of their abilities.

“As a goalie, when you have someone coming down, you want a quality shot because it gives you an opportunity for you to make a good save,” Hathaway said.

Hodge also said he’s evaluating the shooters as well during these goalie sessions before the scrimmages start Thursday afternoon.

Last year, Alexander Kozic and Artur Ogandzhanyan earned their spots on the Tier II NCDC roster as free agent invitees to main camp. It will be a similar situation in 2020-21, as Kozic is off to Bowdoin College, Ogandzhanyan was traded midseason to the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs and his replacement Jaxon Friedman aged out of junior hockey.

The only goalie with ties to the organization from last year is Old Town native Brandon Gasaway, who played for the Thunder’s Premier League team and went 7-8-1 with a 3.61 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage.

Gasaway is aware that the coaches know what each individual goalie can do, but these practices reinforce what the coaches already know.

“I believe they know who we are, they know what they are capable of, but it’s how we progressed over the summer and how we have done in training on the ice and working out,” Gasaway said. “I think they are really looking at that and how we are as teammates. When we are in there you got to make the most of it.”

These goalies have been at enough of these camps to know what a team is looking for in the two goalies that will be on the roster.

Bavis took a quick look at what types of goalies the Thunder had last season on the NCDC team.

“I think they had one kid on the smaller side (Kozic at 5-foot-10, 150 pounds) and one guy on the taller side (Friedman at 6-foot-3, 185),” Bavis said. “That’s pretty typical for juniors, especially at a high level because they want one with skill and speed and one bigger and taking up more of the net.”

Bavis is listed a 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds.

Hodge isn’t too concerned with a size of a goalie.

“I don’t care if you are 6-5 or 5-8, as long as you come in and compete,” Hodge said. “You want to have that feeling when you look back at your goalie that (he) is going to give you an opportunity to win every night.”

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