The offseason officially lasted less than two months for the Johnstown Tomahawks. Captain Chris Trouba doesn’t mind.
In fact, the fourth-year Tomahawks defenseman wouldn’t have preferred to play a few days after his team lost in the NAHL Robertson Cup semifinal round in Blaine, Minnesota, on May 12.
“It hasn’t been a very long summer, but I’d rather have a short summer than a long one in our case,” Trouba said as he prepared for the Tomahawks’ main camp, which opened on Thursday at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.
“Everyone has been working out, training. It’s going to be exciting to get back after it.”
The ’Hawks are coming off an amazing season that included league highs in wins (47) and points (98) as well as a memorable 17-game winning streak during the regular season and 25 consecutive victories at 1st Summit Arena.
As captain, Trouba provided leadership as well as personal NAHL bests with five goals and 18 points to go with 72 penalty minutes. He earned a spot on the Robertson Cup All-Tournament Team as a defenseman for his postseason play.
Johnstown coach Mike Letizia described his captain as an “ultimate leader, a warrior, a veteran guy.”
“In my opinion, he’s the best captain we’ve ever had,” Letizia said.
That statement shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Letizia has been a part of all seven previous Tomahawks seasons – the first two as an assistant coach.
He’s entering his sixth year as the head coach.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” Letizia said of Trouba.
The 6-foot-3 player from Auburn Hills, Michigan, has played 139 regular-season games for Johnstown.
Trouba will be counted upon to provide stability on a team that will be missing a number of marquee players from the record-setting 2018-19 squad.
There will be no jerseys with the names Briere, Solensky, Kraemer, Hebert, Benwell, McPhail or Lukenda on the ice at 1st Summit Arena this season.
Briere (89), Solensky (86), Hebert (78) and Benwell (70) combined to score 323 points last season, and McPhail (29) and Lukenda (15) won 44 games between them.
Letizia doesn’t want pity from those who follow the NAHL.
He knows the opposition certainly won’t fret over the ’Hawks’ turnover.
The seasoned coach said his returnees have valuable experience gained on a divisional championship team.
The draft picks and free agent signees the Tomahawks added have vast potential.
Letizia made a point to bring in players who possess big-game experience while competing at a high level.
A system is in place, and the ’Hawks have bought in.
“We know what works now,” Trouba said.
“We had a good year (in 2016-17), a bad year (in 2017-18) and a really good year (in 2018-19). We know what we have to do with our group of guys to get the job done and hopefully finish it off this year.
“The biggest thing about last year’s team was how close we all were,” Trouba added.
“We all were best friends. It was by far my hardest time of saying goodbye at the end of the year.”
Trouba and his teammates began forging a bond once they took the ice at the War Memorial this week.
Letizia will depend on the captain to show the newcomers the “Tomahawks’ way.”
“I’ve had a leadership role all three years before this one,” Trouba said. “I’m used to it. Obviously it comes as a challenge. We’re bringing in a lot of new guys. I’ve got to keep them honest.
“I’ve got to keep myself honest. I’ve got to hold everyone accountable.”