Dubuque Fighting Saints practice.

Dubuque Fighting Saints huddle

Dubuque Fighting Saints huddle

I recently received the okay from Coach Montgomery and the front office to head down to Dubuque to photograph a Fighting Saints practice.  Shooting this much hockey is a far cry from what I expected, or even thought would happen near the beginning of this hockey season, but I’ve been creating opportunities for months now, and this one has had me the most excited.  Okay, being up in the rafters in Greenville, SC  was pretty damn awesome, but still.  :)

Fighting Saints forward Jarrid Privitera hustling during drills.

Fighting Saints forward Jarrid Privitera hustling during drills.

Arriving early is something I just do; been doing it my entire life.  So when I got to the Mystique Community Ice Center, I texted the equipment manager, met him by the benches, and talked over what I had planned for the day.  I didn’t want to intrude on the operations of anything at all, so I was just going to be staying on the bench and shooting from there.  I’ve been on the ice a number of times for camps and things like that, and it really does yield the best images being ON the ice with everyone, but with such a high-tempo practice from an incredible team, I figured it’d be best (if not only for my own safety) to just stay on the bench.  Besides, I’ve only been hit by one puck while shooting on the ice *knocks on wood* and I’d sorta like to keep it that way.

Fighting Saints defenseman Matt Benning flexing the stick for all it's worth.

Fighting Saints defenseman Matt Benning flexing the stick for all it’s worth.

As of this writing, the Saints are 34-6-3 this season.  Their six losses are only half that of the next best team (Sioux Falls).  So once the guys were out and loose for a few minutes, the coach came out and got things underway without wasting any time.  Whatever works!

Fighting Saints forward Dylan Gambrell taking the ice during practice.

Fighting Saints forward Dylan Gambrell taking the ice during practice.

Ice hockey is incredibly fast.  When you watch it on tv, it’s hard to get a grasp of just how fast that is.  When you’re at a game you say to yourself “wow, these guys are pretty quick”.  And when you’re on the bench with them blazing past you, that’s when you say “okay this is incredible”.  That’s basically how it was.  I’ve photographed from the benches a number of times before, but nothing (yet) has been quite this fast.  It was pretty interesting.

Saints defenseman, and Michigan-committed Mike Downing with Saints goalie coach Grant Standbrook.

Saints defenseman, and Michigan-committed Mike Downing with Saints goalie coach Grant Standbrook.

The drills were intense, and the guys were worked hard, as they should.  It’s getting closer and closer to the playoffs, and every point counts.  The goal is to bring home the Clark Cup, just like they did in the 2010-2011 season; trying hard to not repeat last season, which saw the Saints ousted in the second round by the Indiana Ice.

Saints forward, and Northeastern University committed Mike Szmatula.

Saints forward, and Northeastern University-committed Mike Szmatula.

Practice ended with some guys working on one-timers, some working on faceoffs, others working out the goalies, some stretching, etc.  I’ve talked with a number of the players on facebook and twitter and they seem to really dig what I’m putting out, so I may have to go back to get some more images.  And in all honesty, I simply can’t wait.  This is how you know you love what you do; when you can’t wait to go and do it again.  If you don’t think about work at all when you’re not there, you’re in the wrong profession.  Hockey is absolutely the right profession for me.

Saints newcomer Christian Frey (left) and Mike Szmatula.

Saints newcomer Christian Frey (left) and Mike Szmatula.

You can view the entire gallery of the Saints’ practice on here on my facebook page.

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