By Warren Kozireski —
When you watch 5’8”, 175 lb. Black Knight forward Michael Sacco play, the word “feisty” comes to mind largely because not too many players his size like the call the opposing net area home.
Add in his penalty killing skills—he leads the team with two shorthanded goals— that he jumped from one multi-point game last season to four already as a sophomore and that it all started with taking a year off from hockey.
“Michael Sacco went to our prep school where he didn’t play hockey for a year, but he wanted to come to West Point so bad and they said the only way is you’re going to go to the Military Academy Prep School and that means no hockey,” 18-year Army head coach Brian Riley said.
“And last year it took him a while to get going, but he’s one of those smaller guys that plays big. Plays with a lot of moxy out there and gets in the middle of stuff. Sometimes I’m yelling and screaming at him, but love his energy, love his intensity and I’m glad he’s on our team.
“You can see that he has leadership qualities written all over him, is a key player for us and logs a lot of minutes. He keeps getting better and better.”
“It was definitely a little bit of a different route, but the upperclassmen and the guys I came in with—the seniors especially—I learned a lot from them and they’re all doing great things, so a lot of credit to them,” Sacco said.
“I definitely like going to the front of the net and playing a physical style of game and just bringing energy and hopefully my teammates can rally around.”
With 14 points in 26 games, he has more than doubled his point total from his freshman year, but he holds true to the hockey credo of crediting your teammates.
“I think it’s the way we do things around here; everybody buys in for each other. Everybody brings it and my two linemates do all the heavy lifting so I just gotta keep my stick down and bank some in.
“It (increased offensive numbers) definitely isn’t all on me. Our “D” pushes the pace pretty well and then we have guys that can move bodies around, so it’s just trying to find space where I can and if the plays there to make, hopefully I can make whether it’s a shot or a pass.”
The now-23-year-old started with the P.A.L. Islanders program for three seasons and was an offensive dynamo in year three with 39 goals and 100 points in 61 games. Then he headed out to British Columbia and then landing in the NAHL with Odessa and Wilkes Barre/Scranton.
“I was in the BCHL for about a year and a half and then I came over to Texas and that’s where the coaches found me. So far, it’s the best decision I ever made in my life.
Sacco is one of the few that chose to wear #13 on his jersey.
“I’m from Long Island and over the years I’ve watched a lot of Matt Barzal, so as a freshman you get whatever they throw at you and #13 was on the table and I took it. And I think I wear it well.”
Wearing it well on the banks of the Hudson River and ecstatic for the chance to play for the Black Knights.
“My grandfather (Salvatore Campione) was in the Army in Korea and I draw so much inspiration from him.
“So much history, the people we’re surrounded with very day; you just kind of pinch yourself because you’re around such high-quality people that are so selfless. I’m just so thankful that I’m able to be a part of it.”
(U.S. Army/West Point Hockey Photos)