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Trio Keeping their eyes on the prize

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
Professional hockey players hit their off-season training regiment hard in the last month of summer in preparation for training camp.

For most, that regiment is typically held at a special training facility or back in the player’s hometown before reporting to camp.

However, there remains a group of Flyers prospects that have choosen to stay around the team's practice facility and hang around the hallways and locker rooms at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.

Tom Sestito, Harry Zolnierczyk (that’s pronounced: ZOHL-ner-chuk) and Zac Rinaldo are just a few names that are working hard with Jim McCrossin, the team’s Athletic Trainer/Strength & Conditioning Coach, and Flyers forward Ian Laperriere to not only get ready for Rookie Camp (and eventually Training Camp) but to hit their stride in full force once that time comes.

“I know it is,” said Laperriere on whether it’s an advantage by staying here during the summer. “You get everything available to you – a state of the art gym, two ice-sheets every day, great supervision from Jim McCrossin and it doesn’t cost you anything. There’s not too many places that can offer you that.”

For Sestito, his goals are pretty clear. The 6’5’’, 228-pound left wing acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Trade Deadline Day back in March is looking to make the 2011-12 Flyers roster admitting full-well that anything less is a failure in his eyes.
Ian Laperriere working on power skating drills with prospects

“I’m a new guy, and I wanted some of the guys [upstairs] to keep an eye on me while I’m here and know that I’m working hard out on the ice. I think it will help my cause in the long run,” said Sestito. “But at the same time, you still have to bring it and compete to make the team.”

Confidence is something that Rinaldo is certainly well-aware can make a difference in one’s game. The club’s sixth round pick in 2008 appeared in two games for the Flyers during the Stanley Cup Playoffs this last spring. They were his first two games ever in the National Hockey League.

“I’ve never been here in the summer, but I can already feel that it’s going to improve my game and give us a huge confidence build going into camp,” said Rinaldo. “There’s a different aspect of what I need to do now in order to make the team, and I’m a lot more calmer. I’m waiting for a lot of things to come to me instead of always turning around to go and get the puck.”

The 23-year-old Zolnierczyk is in a little bit different boat than the other two. Having just graduated from a four-year hockey career at Brown University where he was named the 2011 Ivy League Player of the Year, he faces the challenge most collegiate players face when making the jump to the pros - adjusting to a full schedule.

“I think there’s definitely an advantage to it,” said Zolnierczyk. “Coming into a new organization, it will be good to be here for a couple months to get to used to the way things work around here and get used to the staff and the way they train, the types of practices they have and get really comfortable with those things before camp gets going.”

Zolnierczyk does have a slight head start, signing with the Flyers back in March and joining their AHL affiliate in Glens Falls for 16 games. During this time, he gained valuable experience playing in the pros.

Whatever the results may be in early-mid September, Sestito, Zolnierczyk and Rinaldo are sure of one thing. The decision to stay around the area and train with the Flyers was definitely the right one.
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