There was no tip-toeing into the preseason for the Bismarck Bobcats.
Layne Sedevie, coach and general manager of the Bobcats, threw his team into the deep end with back-to-back exhibition games against NAHL runner-up Minot, and another tune-up tonight in Fargo against the reigning USHL champion Force.
The Bobcats and Minotauros split their two warm-up tilts last weekend with positives to pull from both.
"It's been a lot of fun to see our guys out there and see where we're at," Sedevie said. "I think the rivalry between us and Minot has turned into one of the best rivalries in junior hockey, then you turn around and face the Clark Cup champions. That's a pretty big challenge, but I like how our guys have competed."
Sedevie's attempt to upgrade the offense looks promising, granted it's really early. The Bobcats scored seven goals against the Tauros, winning 4-1 and falling 5-3.
"I like the overall talent level and I think we're going to be able to score some goals," he said.
The Big 3 of Adam Stacho (16 goals, 27 assists), Jacob Marti (11 goals) and Mitchell Walinski (10 goals) all return. Marti and Walinski recently committed to playing NCAA Division I hockey at Air Force.
Defensively, the Bobcats return one of the top goalies in the NAHL in John Roberts. The blue line will be anchored by Sam Malinski.
"Sam's one of the best defensemen in the league," Sedevie said. "It's nice to have that veteran presence back there surrounded by our young defensive core."
Young players flashing so far include Hunter Johannes, who was tendered by the Chicago Steel of the USHL, Century's Kirklan Irey and fellow forwards Alex Pollack and Niki Jasko.
Draft picks Tim Piechowski from Eden Prairie, Minn., (No. 7 overall), Ryan Taylor out of St. Louis and Dawson McKay of Houghton, Mich., have made early impressions. Piechowski and Taylor are centers. McKay will line up at forward.
Sedevie brought in a smaller group of players for training camp this season. One or two more cuts remain to be made, which is never easy.
"It's the worst part of the job, but it's better knowing it won't be seven-to-10 guys we have to let go," Sedevie said.
The Bobcats start the regular 60-game season with the grueling NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., on Sept. 19, with four games in four days.
"In the first two exhibition games we were a bit sloppy at times. There's still things we need to clean up," Sedevie said. "Wednesday's game will give us another good gauge on what we're doing well and what we need to keep working on, but I feel like we're going in the right direction and I think we have a chance to be a pretty good hockey team."