By Warren Kozireski —
When Joseph Cecconi last skated regularly on western New York ice, he was 16 years old in the jersey of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres. But, after a Dec. 16 trade with the Dallas Stars for defenseman Oskari Laaksonen, the now-25-year-old blueliner is back home with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League.
“It’s been great; the culture here is fantastic and I know a lot of guys in this organization, so it’s kind of been an easy transition coming from Texas and I’m just excited to keep working with the team and see where it goes,” Cecconi said after his first home game in an Amerks uniform.
“Summer workouts with Sean Malone, I was roommates with Brendan Warren at school, I played with Mason Jobst, Mitch Eliot and Michael Mersch so it’s a lot of familiar faces.”
A fifth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2015 before starting his four-year college career at the University of Michigan, the 6’3”, 215 lb. right shot gives Rochester a needed large body on the back line to help lock down opponents rushes with his reach.
“I think he’s a rock-solid defender, he’s hard to play against, he’s got a long stick and I think he’s done a really good job in his time early on with us and we hope that we can continue to help him grow,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said.
“What he came into pro hockey with was as a guy who had a chance to be an NHLer and we want to help him get back to that spot.”
After his two seasons with the Jr. Sabres, Cecconi spent a season and a half with Muskegon in the United States Hockey League.
During his sophomore season with the University of Michigan, Cecconi was on gold-medal winning and undefeated Team USA for the IIHF U-20 World Juniors tournament along with now-Buffalo Sabres Tage Thompson and Casey Fitzgerald along with NHLers Troy Terry, Charlie McAvoy, Adam Fox, Jordan Greenway, Jake Oettinger, Kieffer Bellows, Ryan Lindgren and Clayton Keller.
He’s never been a huge producer of offense with a combined nine goals and 62 points over four collegiate seasons with the vast majority of those coming as an upperclassman. He has four AHL goals in 179 games.
The Sabres organization didn’t acquire him for offense and Cecconi is happy to start anew with the team he rooted for as a kid.
“I was traveling with my old team in Texas and got the call from management and found out. I’m just ecstatic that’s it’s the Buffalo Sabres. Obviously, I’m pretty close to Buffalo and my family lives around here, so they can make the trip either way. It’s sad to leave a bunch of my friends back in Texas, but it’s part of the business and I’m excited for a fresh opportunity.”
“My mom would take me to almost every Sabres game when I was growing up, so I’m a big fan. I had a bunch (of favorite players), but Brian Campbell was one of my favorite guys. You name the guys on that team and I like them.”
Third game as an Amerk and his team allowed their 4-0 second period lead evaporate to just one. Final minute protecting a one-goal lead and the coaching staff calls on the newcomer to protect the lead.
“I’m just trying to build trust from the staff in practice and game day—we haven’t gotten too many practices in yet especially with the last game cancelled—but they somewhat know who I am as a player and I just need to keep doing my thing and earning that trust.”