By Warren Kozireski
Of the four teams who advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four in Boston—North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Providence and Boston University—five players hailing from New York State dot the rosters.
The New York City area can brag about three in Brandon Fortunato, a freshman defenseman for BU who is from North Hills, Providence junior defenseman Tom Parisi from Commack and senior co-captain and forward James Polk, who was born in Wyoming, raised in New York City and attended Shattuck St. Mary’s for three years prior to joining Nebraska-Omaha.
The other two hail from the Rochester area in Providence junior forward Trevor Mingoia and BU junior forward Matt Lane.
Mingoia was the right wing on the Friars top line in the national semi-final. The Fairport native had a career-high 14 goals with 15 assists this season in 38 games. He tied for a team-best six power play goals and was second in game-winning goals with four.
He led his team with seven shots on goal and scored a huge goal in the semi-final win over Omaha just 24 seconds after they had cut the BU lead to just one goal.
He played two seasons for Fairport High School winning two Section V titles before departing for Berkshire Prep School, where he was Team MVP, and the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League.
He was recruited to Union College for the 2011-12 season by current Providence head coach Nate Leaman—a SUNY Cortland graduate where he played for a couple of seasons with current Rochester Amerks head coach Chadd Cassidy—and played as a freshman on the Dutchmen’s run to the Frozen Four semi-finals. He then followed Leaman to Providence, sat out the mandatory one year, and has had a major impact on the success of the Friars season.
“It was very motivating time for me,” Mingoia said about watching his former teammates at Union win the national title last season. “I couldn’t be happier for them. I’ve got a lot of great friends on that team and have a lot of respect for that team. I was happy when they won. But jealousy roles in. I want it bad, and I have the opportunity to do it this year with this team.
Lane played for the Greece Thunder high school team his freshman year before leaving for one season in Canada with the Mississauga Reps and living with his brother, Phil, a second round NHL draft pick by Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes who was then playing for Brampton in the Ontario Hockey League. He then joined the U.S. National Development program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Seeing regular time on the penalty kill and power play units, Lane set career-best marks with eight goals and ten assists while playing on either the second or third line most of the season.
“Obviously this is the biggest stage of our college careers and the biggest this year, Lane said. “Seeing all of the Frozen Four decals sheds light on how big this event is and everything that goes into it.”
“I’m happy whenever I can chip in a goal and getting one (the second BU goal in the NCAA Northeast Regional Final at Manchester, NH) against Minnesota-Duluth was a good thing. It was a good feeling; it was a big goal and just being in the right place at the right time.”
Commack’s Parisi saw second-unit power play and penalty kill for the Friars and had 10 goals with 28 assists over 104 collegiate career games.
He helped lead the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs to the Eastern Junior Hockey League title in 2011-12 and was named to the All-Star team. Prior to that he played for four years at Portledge Prep on the Island. And he played earlier junior hockey in the Atlantic Hockey League with the Long Island Bobcats.
“It’s a good feeling, obviously,” Parisi said about Providence advancing to the title game. “We had pretty lofty expectations going into this so I can’t say I was surprised. We expected to be here and we expected to be where we’re at—it’s a business trip.
“Every year (in Providence) it’s been a growing process and every year I feel a little more comfortable.
And when Parisi was a senior at Portledge, Fortunato was a freshman.
After Portledge, Fortunato, who won’t turn 19 until June 7, began his junior career with a national title with the Long Island Royals, helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2014 U-18 World Junior championships and was the top scoring defenseman both years for the U.S. National Development Team. He had one goal and 17 assists for BU prior to the Frozen Four and was seeing time on the second power play unit.
“I’m not really a shot-first player, I just look to move the puck,” Fortunato said. “I’m taking more pride in my defense and trying to be more physical.
“(The NDTP) is really special. The off-ice training is unbelievable and practicing and playing with the 20 best guys in the country, guys like (Jack) Eichel, (Sonny) Milano and (Alex) Tuch who were first round guys definitely improved my game so it was a great experience.”
And Polk served this season as an assistant captain for the Mavericks of Omaha. He is one of those accountable-type players who lead by example and played mostly an energy role. In 33 games this season, he had two goals with one assist.
He also played prep school hockey at Shattuck St. Mary’s before a season with Penticton in the British Columbia Hockey League.
Other New York State influences at the Frozen Four included referee Peter Feola of Rochester, who worked the semi-final between Providence and Omaha, plus Providence forwards Nick Sarracino and Brandon Tanev—both brothers to former Rochester Institute of Technology players Chris Sarracino and Chris Tanev, who played for the Tigers in their Frozen Four run in 2010.
Former Niagara University assistant coach Albie O’Connell is an assistant coach with BU, former Syracuse Crunch and Rochester American captain Dane Jackson is an assistant coach with North Dakota and former Crunch goaltender Karl Goehring is the goaltending coach at North Dakota.
And Providence also featured Buffalo Sabres draft picks Anthony Florentino and Mark Adams on their defense. Florentino was a fifth round selection in 2013 and Adams a fifth rounder in 2009. New York Islanders 2012 fifth round selection Doyle Somerly is on the Terrier defense.