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Travel Day, House Leads the Way and Settling the Nerves

February 17, 2020 - North American Hockey League (NAHL) - New Jersey Titans News Release

After our weekend series at home against the Northeast Generals, five Titans players, Joe Nagle, Cam Gendron, Michael Outzen, Cade Penney, and myself embarked with our equipment manager, Yllano TubIlleja to Attleboro, MA for the 2020 Top Prospects showcase. The showcase is an extremely prestigious event that hosts every - or nearly every - NHL and Division 1 team as attendees.

We arrived at the Middletown Sports Complex shortly after 9am, less than 12 hours after the finish of our Saturday night game against the Generals, and packed all our gear, toiletries, and other luggage we would need for the next few days. Besides the obvious requirement for our gear, we also packed a skate sharpener and shop vacuum (Yllano loves his cleanliness) in the back of a rented 15-seater van. My teammates looked on with baffled expressions as I packed most of the bus by myself.

Departing shortly after 10am we all expressed our excitement for the tournament as Yllano played his famous "House" music, which he takes his nickname from. "House" drove smoothly as we passed New York City, seeing the skyline to our right. About halfway to our destination we stopped at a rest stop in Branford, CT. The five of us each got a Subway sandwich. House strayed from the pack and elected to get a macchiato and a vanilla frosted donut from Dunkin'.

Back on the road again we passed our hotel location in Providence, RI and headed straight for the rink in Attleboro to drop off our gear. Luckily, I was assisted in the unpacking of the van this time. With our bags on our shoulders we followed House, still buzzed off his macchiato, through the back of the rink towards our locker room. As we passed by cameras and equipment being set up for the event, we came across the sign for our locker room, labelled East Division, and opened the doors. House instructed us to unpack our gear where our nameplate was, and we robotically unpacked just like every other road game. Although this time a green jersey occupied our stalls.

After we set up our gear we headed to the hotel, the upscale Hilton-Providence, to check in, we got to head up to our rooms and relax for a bit. It was shortly after 5:30, and dinner was not served until 7pm. After about 45 minutes we had a welcome surprise. Former Titan Spencer Stanley, currently attending Salve Regina, came to visit his former teammates and me. He caught us up with life after junior hockey, including his experience with taking classes, which seemed like a distant dream to us (or nightmare, depending on who you asked). After reflecting on his time with the Titans and his own experience with this event last year, the clock reached 7pm, and our empty stomachs led us downstairs to our meals.

Green Salad, Broccoli, grilled chicken, Steak. These freshly cooked ingredients greeted us downstairs. No pizza. Now we just had to find where to sit.... no empty tables meant we had to mingle. We found one with some players from the Maine Nordiques and acquainted ourselves with divisional advisories turned temporary teammates. As we engaged in the familiar banter of "hockey talk" our nerves eased, and we settled into our once peculiar surroundings. After our stomachs were settled, we headed upstairs to get some rest for the exciting, and extremely important activities that were to come.

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