by Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- It was so long ago, and yet it still feels like yesterday in Lake Placid, New York. 38 years ago, this arena, this village, and the United States as a whole were in the midst of an iconic state of pure pandemonium as the Soviet Union's hockey dynasty was put on hold by an upstart American squad in the 1980 Olympic Games. You all probably know that story fairly well at this point, as it stands out as arguably the single greatest moment in the history of American sports.
Household names were made on that day, and at the center of it all was the man who scored the game-winner to trigger that pandemonium: Mike Eruzione. The Eruzione name has become iconic, virtually synonymous with the game of hockey in this country, and the name has aged quite well in Division III hockey. Brother
|Danny Eruzione will look to become the next member of his illustrious family to leave a mark in Lake Placid. Photo: Salve Athletics|
Vinnie Eruzione is the athletic director at Curry College, and while his Colonels had a terrific year under TJ Manastersky, it's Vinnie's son, and Mike's nephew, who is grabbing headlines this week in Lake Placid.
Based on his name alone, you might not believe that Danny Eruzione has never been to Lake Placid. In fact it's rather hard to believe, but it's true. As a freshman, Eruzione has done everything he possibly can to change that. He's stepped right in at Salve Regina and produced points hand over fist on an average clip of 1.30 points per game to rank in the top five among freshmen nationally, and that production has helped advance Eruzione and the Seahawks into uncharted territory as they ready for a national semifinal against UW-Stevens Point this Friday.
For Eruzione, it's the first peak of a college career that was preceded by a very long road to get to this point that mirrors many others in the game, yet has a very special destination for this weekend. Danny Eruzione started skating at the age of three years old, and his budding career began to take off by the time he hit high school age. He put together two strong years at Winthrop High School in Massachussets, and then three additional years on the Massachussets prep circuit before catching some eyeballs in junior hockey.
As his game grew, so did his Division I aspirations. He did a short stint in the BCHL before coming home to play in the EHL with the Walpole Express. A strong season led to an even better opportunity in the NAHL, where many Division I and top Division III players are produced annually.
"Division I was always a lifelong dream of mine," Eruzione said. "...I moved to a more competitive league in the North American Hockey League with the New Jersey Titans, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I had a successful year, and I went to the NAHL Top Prospects tournament and did pretty well and that usually nets you some hard looks or offers for Division I."
Those offers never came. Eruzione was offered the chance to walk on at more than one Division I school, but a Division III program with something special came calling instead. That program was Salve Regina.
The Seahawks had been on the rise for years, but were a team in transition this offseason. Head Coach Andy Boschetto was off to Division I Niagara, and Newport native Zech Klann was brought in as his replacement. As it turned out, Eruzione's coach in Walpole, Jon Lounsbury, happened to know Klann well, and Eruzione's longtime friend Erik Udahl was going to be on the team after a brief stint on Boston University's roster. The rest is history as Udahl and Eruzione have been two of the team's top skaters all season long. Eruzione remembers Udahl's pitch to get his friend to join him.
"He was someone who sold me. He thought we could be good together and bring this program to where it is right now," Eruzione said. "And It's funny, we were sitting in the car not too long ago and we were like, 'remember when we were talking and I was trying to get you to come here and bring this place to a Frozen Four or National Championship?' And here we are. It feels like it was so long ago and it's pretty crazy."
Eruzione turned out to be the lone recruit of Zech Klann's very short offseason tenure after Boschetto's departure, with Boschetto recruiting the remainder of Salve's current freshman class. Eruzione offered high praise as to how his new coach has prepared and managed a roster filled with players that he didn't bring in to the program.
"He's done such a great job with these guys and getting them to buy in and continue what they had already started, Eruzione said. "He's so motivated and determined for this group, and wants us to act like professionals and be professionals in everything we do."
That approach has led Eruzione to a place he was destined to get to eventually, and he did give his famous uncle a ring before setting foot in the building this week.
"He keeps our family tight and he's one to be there for everybody," Eruzione said. "I just asked him the other day about the game and how to play on this Olympic Sheet. I called him just last night about a few things. He spoke to our team earlier this year on intangibles and how to build a winning team.... he helps me out a lot."
Outside the Olympic Center, Eruzione has taken some time to reflect on what it must have looked like in the streets of Lake Placid on that fateful day.
"After our morning skate I walked the streets with Udahl, who has been here in youth hockey, and he was telling me all about it," Eruzione said. "We spent some time wondering 'how did they ever fit all of those Olympians here in this little town. It's crazy how small it is. Especially with the US team winning on home soil, I can't even imagine the people getting up for them, and being around them."
If the Seahawks accomplish their goals this weekend, Danny could become the latest Eruzione to celebrate in Lake Placid and it may be anything but a miracle this time around.