Anthony Del Gaizo poised for breakout sophomore season

Anthony Del Gaizo finally had a full offseason to train, which can only mean good things for the sophomore 


(Parker Peters/Daily Collegian)

By Evan Marinofsky, Collegian Staff

Anthony Del Gaizo corralled the puck in his wheel house and drove to the net.

He threw the puck at opposing goaltender Matt Murray. Murray made the pad stop but Del Gaizo perfectly anticipated where the rebound would be, brought the puck in tight, beat Murray to the back post and tucked it past him for the second goal of the intrasquad scrimmage, as No. 12 dove to the ice.

In a scrimmage where the score was meaningless, this one meant something to Del Gaizo, as he pumped his fist in celebration.

Del Gaizo laid out and blocked a shot from the point later in the shift.

The Basking Ridge, New Jersey native is a fiery personality in his own right. After the scrimmage, coach Greg Carvel pondered whether or not him celebrating the goal hard was because he wanted to get the other bench – one full of teammates – riled up.

“You could all hear him hooting,” Carvel said of Del Gaizo, who played opposite the team he coached on the white squad in the preseason intrasquad scrimmage.

But this goal meant more than that.

The 5’10” power forward had a bumpy freshman campaign. After having major shoulder surgery prior to last season, his training and preparation for the year’s slate of games was thrown off.

“He was kind of behind the eight ball to start [last] year,” assistant coach Ben Barr said. “I think he’s in a better place physically, I think he’s in a better place mentally and he knows his role.”

His role last season consisted primarily of fourth line duties. Towards the end of the season, he started to feel normal again and along with it, his play and effectiveness on the ice picked up.

This couldn’t have been highlighted any better than his opening goal against Harvard in the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal last season – fighting to get to the net, sticking with a loose puck and jamming it into the back of the net.

Unlike last offseason, Del Gaizo had a full summer of training and getting fully prepared for the upcoming season. He spent it training in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, working out six times a week.

“He had an enormous summer,” his brother Marc said. “He worked really hard – the hardest I’ve ever seen him work. He’s the hardest working kid I know.”

Collegian File Photo

That’s some serious brotherly love.

During those private workout sessions six days a week, Del Gaizo trained with Kevin Labanc of the San Jose Sharks and Zach Aston-Reese of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Training with those two NHL-established forwards taught Del Gaizo quite a bit.

“Just kind of speaking with them on how they handle adversity,” he said. “Their routines – what they do every day, keeping things consistent.”

The main focus of the offseason for No. 12 was speed, which along with his preseason shoulder injury, held him back last season. It’s something his former coach in the United States Hockey League with the Muskegon Lumberjacks points to as a skill to work on.

“The college game is really fast,” coach John LaFontaine said. “Anthony has always worked on his skating and he’s improved. But that would probably be the reason why that first year he wasn’t able to have the kind of year that Marc did. He didn’t quite have the speed.

“He’ll probably come in and surprise everybody.”

When Del Gaizo finds success, it won’t really surprise anyone. In his final year with the Lumberjacks, he amassed 40 goals and 72 points in 60 regular season games. That performance was good enough to earn him USHL Player of the Year.

While the scoring touch is there, Del Gaizo understands the importance of having elite-level speed.

“It’s very important to be quick around the puck,” he said. “There’s only certain guys that can really break away up and down the ice. Just to be able to react and get to pucks first, it’s a huge part of the sport.”

And he doesn’t think the speed gap between the USHL and college hockey is as substantial as some do.

“I don’t know if there’s too much of a speed gap,” he said. “It’s more like higher level thinking. It’s more like reads. There’s more emphasis on getting to pucks first and adapting with the systems.”

The power forward emphasized that he’s turned the page on last season. But that doesn’t mean he forgot the things he learned.

(Parker Peters/Daily Collegian)

Playing in 41 games has to teach you something, right?

“I think as a team, it’s going to be huge for us,” he said. “We want to win those big games, we want to beat BC, and that semifinal and we want to win that national championship. We did win some huge games last year – we had a lot of clutch performances. We won that semifinal game in Denver and that’s something that none of us will ever forget.

“But we want to take that next step. We really didn’t win much last year. We had a great season, but we want to come home with trophies this year.”

So back to that goal in the scrimmage.

The symbolism is obvious — after getting stuffed on the first try, Del Gaizo jammed it home on his second chance.

That just might be how his second year at UMass plays out — after having a bumpy first go of it with the Minutemen, Del Gaizo is primed for a breakout year in his second season.

“He’ll be a big factor for us this year if he’s able to use that asset that he has where he’ll outwill you,” Carvel said of Del Gaizo. “That’s the goal – that he outwills.”

Outwill. That’s the name of the game for Anthony Del Gaizo.

And he’ll do that even more this season.

Evan Marinofsky can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @emarinofsky.