Terry Lammens knows how many years he's laced up his skates to start another hockey season.
But he's not letting on.
"I just don't tell," said the Tillsonburg Thunder's elder statesman outside the dressing room Friday evening inside the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena.
"I know it's 10 or 11 years of senior hockey," he added. "Just the old guy… the old experienced guy on the team. Back another season and looking forward to it."
Even some of the younger players admit to feeling a bit older, particularly given the rather abrupt onset of the WOAA Senior Men's Hockey season.
"Two skates and a game and right into 'er," said forward Nathan Peacock. "No rest for the wicked, I guess."
A few years off being a Thunder rookie himself, the 28-year-old Peacock admitted to feeling a bit older following Friday's on-ice workout, but glad to get back into competitive, body-contact hockey.
"As good as it would be after three skates and a six month break," he laughed.
Saturday's pre-season game backed up two tryout practices, hitting the ice with more physicality than one might have expected. There were also enough goals to go along with the hits to keep a sparse crowd entertained, as well as both teams' share of anticipated miscues through an 8-6 Tavistock Royals victory.
"Just getting the kinks out, a bunch of new faces, getting the rust off," Peacock summed up. "Two many turnovers," he added, "soft goals, we left our goalie out to dry."
The Royals exited the first period with a 3-2 lead on goals by Greg Virgo (shorthanded), Craig Thompson and Brad Horan (power play). Adam Vandepoele responded for the Thunder with assists to Chris McGuffin and Curtis Maracle; and Peacock netted his first of the year with help from Ryan Gaertner and Pat Ouellette.
Tillsonburg squared off the second period 3-3 as McGuffin (from Maracle and Lammens); Devin Homick (Shane Balcomb and Ouellette) and Maracle (Balcomb and Adam Wallace) found the back of the net. Horan, Josh Gaynor and Virgo responded for the visitors.
Vandepoele added his second of the game in the third for the Thunder (McGuffin), but Mile Maclean netted the eventual game-winner 1:53 into the period, and Virgo rounded a hat trick with 2:31 remaining in regulation time as added insurance.
Cody Vinnai and Neil Pittock shared goaltending duties for the Thunder, while Evan Groenesteeg and Tom Ewasser split time between the pipes for Tavistock.
Admittedly neither Rome, nor a senior hockey playoff run were built in a day, and a truer picture of where Tillsonburg fits into the WOAA Senior Men's mix will come into focus as the regular season progresses.
"Exactly," agreed Peacock. "Give us a couple of months."
Part of the adjustment process will be to a new coach, with Jim Baxter assuming bench boss duties.
"He's been around hockey a lot," said Lammens, welcoming a move toward a more structured system, with defined individual roles within a broader team approach. "That's what you do, you do your job.
"Just got to work on it and put everything together."
The process begins in earnest next Saturday (October 5) as the Thunder open their regular season with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop against Milverton. Tillsonburg is back on home ice the following Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff with Monkton.