The Columbus Cottonmouths open their 10th Southern Professional Hockey League training camp today at 10 a.m. at the Columbus Ice Rink.
Coach Jerome Bechard has assembled the largest camp roster in 10 SPHL seasons.
A total of 24 Snakes hopefuls will gather for the two-week camp.
Some are starting out at higher level camps, while others are attending their first professional camp. One rookie, Alex Gallant, is injured and won't be ready to play for at least two weeks.
A number of familiar faces return, but others are gone. The Snakes lost a lot of experience.
Retiring during or after last season are co-captains Orrin Hergott and Sam Bowles. Hergott left during his ninth season as the longest-tenured player in SPHL history, while Bowles competed for five.
Goaltender Ian Vigier retired after six seasons. Defenseman Bret Tyler and forwards John Sullivan and Derek Pallardy have also moved on.
A key group of players return to anchor the Cottonmouths at all positions. Goaltender Andrew Loewen is back for his fourth Snakes season.
Loewen put up solid numbers a year ago, including aiding in an 11-game win
Veteran Tom Maldonado changed his mind about retiring and is back on defense for the Snakes. Maldonado and Tyler put up strong numbers as offensive-minded defensemen and also directed the power play. Joining Maldonado on defense are Kevin Kessler, Kyle Johnson and Chris Bailer.
Matt Gingera was the team's leading scorer a year ago, though he didn't join the team until Dec. 1 and played in only 46 of the team's 56 games. Gingera returns up front along with second leading scorer Jordan Braid, who also reversed his retirement decision. Levi Lind is back for his fifth season, making him the longest-tenured Snake. Other forwards returning are Will Aide, Daniel Amesbury, Jordan Draper and Jason Yuel.
Joining the Snakes from other SPHL teams are defenseman Mike Switzer and forward Dan Bremner. Switzer played for Augusta last season and went shopping for another team when the RiverHawks went dark this year, and Bremner was left unprotected by Knoxville. Seth Ronsberg played last season for Dayton in the Federal Hockey League.
Goaltenders Travis Bosch and Jesse Chenard head the list of those attending their first professional camp, in addition to defensemen Jason Gray and Jesse Slobodian.
Rookie forwards are Tory Allan, Mike Henderson, Ian McNulty, Brendan Turner and Jordan Zalba.
The Snakes will play a pair of exhibition games after the first week of camp. They travel to Knoxville on Oct. 18 and host the Ice Bears on Oct. 19. The home exhibition contest will be held in the Ice Rink with general admission seating and only 500 seats available.
The Snakes open the season on the road for the first time in their SPHL tenure. They travel to face reigning league champion Pensacola on Friday, Oct. 25. The following night, the Cottonmouths host Knoxville at the Columbus Civic Center. Game time is 7:30 p.m.