Piacentini Prepares for Fourth Pro Season
Norwich alumnus sees similarities between SPHL season and his alma mater’s plan
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Tyler Piacentini was the captain of quite possibly the best team in Norwich men’s hockey history.
“You think of Norwich and you think of good hockey,” he said. “And when you go there, not only for academics but to play hockey, you want to win a National championship.”
In Piacentini’s last year, the Cadets did just that, riding a 25-game unbeaten streak to the 2017 D3 national title, the program’s fourth since 2000.
“To do it our senior year, and just the way that we did it, one of the best if not the best moment of my life so far,” Piacentini said.
Even with his college career in the books, Piacentini thought he had more left in the tank.
“I didn’t want to hang em up so I figured, ‘Oh I’ll try to play one year somewhere just for the experience,’” Piacentini said. “I never thought I’d be playing two years and now it’s going into year four.”
Piacentini is heading down to Alabama next week for training camp ahead of his fourth season as a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Huntsville Havoc.
“Down South it’s, you wouldn’t think it but they’re so passionate with hockey and they know what they’re talking about,” Piacentini said. “I see it in Huntsville, it’s every game. If it’s not sold out, it’s almost sold out.”
The SPHL was not immune to the coronavirus. The league shutdown alongside everyone else back in March. But they plan to become just the second professional hockey league in North America to begin the 2020/21 season when games start after Christmas. The SPHL is beating both the second-tier American Hockey League AND the NHL back to the ice.
“I mean it’s pretty cool that we are starting up and hopefully everyone stays healthy and it goes the way as planned,” Piacentini said. “I think obviously the owners and the league, they know the risk that they’re taking. I think all the rules that they have are, you know, it’s the safest way possible which if everyone follows them, hopefully it works fine.”
Unfortunately the league will be about half as big this year, as five of the ten teams are located in states where COVID restrictions make it financially unfeasible to operate. Playing 56 games against only four different teams could allow things to get a little chippy...but don’t expect Piacentini to drop the gloves.
“I always joke around, I say I don’t get paid enough to get punched in the face,” he said.
Now fighting is not allowed at the college level, but his alma mater might develop some uncomfortable familiarity of its own this Winter. With the league schedule canceled, Norwich has been exploring the possibility of playing games against only in-state opponents. Particularly in the case of Castleton, Piacentini knows from personal experience to expect fireworks.
“I remember one game we had where it was by the bench, and one of our guys like kinda tackled one of their guys,” Piacentini recalled. “And then it was just kind of like 5 on 5 guys pushing and stuff. But I mean that’s what makes it fun. They always had some good teams when we were there, they played us hard so playing them multiple times it’s gonna be interesting, but if that’s the only way that they can do it, then go for it.”
He says even if it’s not a full season, it should help the Cadets stay sharp as they continue the pursuit of a fifth title whenever their next chance comes along. As for Piacentini, he’s excited to be able to get back on the ice soon.
“It’s gonna be a short season but it’s gonna be a condensed season so I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m just excited to get things back to normal or at least feel normal.”
Piacentini and the Havoc get their season started December 26th.
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