The Massachusetts hockey team has a few consistent offensive weapons that are expected to do most of the scoring in each game, but one other player is emerging as a surprise threat lately as well in redshirt freshman Steven Guzzo.
Guzzo missed out on an entire season after tearing his ACL in UMass’ final preseason practice before the start of the 2011 campaign. He was intended to be an integral part of the Minutemen’s new freshman class and a player who could not only score, but develop into a playmaker on the offensive attack.
Guzzo didn’t play a game last season, but during his rehab he worked with his teammates and tried to get along as best he could. Not skating held him back as his teammates progressed, but he learned the game and the speed of play along with the rest of his class, and that’s a big reason why he’s becoming an effective and impressive player through the early parts of this season.
“Steven is starting to find himself,” said UMass coach Don Cahoon in a UMassAthletics.com interview. “It was a tough year for him a year ago, and then he started this year with very little experience and none at all on the ice. So he’s very essentially a freshman and he’s really just starting to come into his game. I’m really pleased for him.”
The forward from Oakville, Ontario has seen increased playing time in every game this season and has played in all but one of UMass’s contests. Guzzo has netted two goals on 10 shots and notched one assist for a total of three points.
While those three points leave him tied for 11th place on the squad, he has helped out in other ways; he’s used his athletic ability and passing skill to generate opportunities for other players.
As a result, he is plus four in the plus/minus category this season and he has only been in the penalty box one time, which is tied for the second-fewest on the team among regular players. His mark of plus four is highest on the team.
Guzzo’s best performances so far have come against some of the best teams in the nation, including last weekend’s 4-2 victory over No. 1 Boston College. He put the Minutemen ahead, 2-1, in the third period when he tucked a rebound into the right corner of the net for his second goal of the season. That goal gave UMass the momentum it needed to get over its third period woes and beat the top-ranked Eagles and improve to 2-4-2 overall and 1-4-2 in Hockey East.
On the road against No. 13 Boston University on Oct. 29, Guzzo netted his first goal, though it came in a losing effort. He netted the first goal of his career, and the first score of the game, when Rocco Carzo’s shot missed wide and Guzzo was in position to put the rebound in the back of the net. The freshman was plus-two in that game, which led the team.
Playing in HEA, which Cahoon has often called the nation’s best division, the Minutemen need every offensive weapon that they can find. A heavyweight schedule that frequently includes contests against nationally ranked teams requires every player on the squad to contribute on a nightly basis. Fortunately for UMass, and to the surprise of some who didn’t expect Guzzo to be playing this well at the get-go, he has been a bright spot for the team and as the schedule progresses, it seems like he is only getting better.
Michael Wood can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @MDC_Wood.