Thorold native looking to breakout as a sophomore with the Niagara IceDogs
Thorold native Anthony DiFruscia (left) plays for Team Black in the Niagara IceDogs annual Black and White game on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. He scored the shootout winner for Team Black.
Anthony DiFruscia has set the bar high for his second major junior season.
The 18-year-old winger is not only looking to up his offensive game with the Niagara IceDogs, but he also wants to be a leader on the team.
“I want to be a player Marty relies on and puts out when we need a goal and at critical times,” DiFruscia said. “Since we have a younger team this year, I also want to be a guy the younger players can turn to.”
Niagara’s GM/head coach Marty Williamson has similar expectations in mind.
“It’s a big year for Anthony,” Williamson said. “We saw flashes last year, but I really think he can be a top contributor for us this year and be a leader. He wants to be a go-to guy and that’s what we’re going to need from him.”
After a solid rookie campaign, where he notched 14 goals, 30 points and 58 penalty minutes in 68 games, the Thorold native is looking forward to playing in front of his hometown crowd this year as a more experienced and confident forward.
“I’m a bit more comfortable now, I have more experience and I still have my friends and family coming out to the games, so it will be a bit easier this year,” said DiFruscia, who scored the shootout winner for Team Black in the IceDogs' annual Black and White game Thursday night.
“It’s definitely nice to be back on the ice and see all the guys again, so I just want to work hard, have fun and get better and better every time I’m on the ice.”
While the IceDogs may not be gearing up for a championship run as they have in recent seasons, DiFruscia is happy to be a core piece of a rebuilding team.
“We have a lot of young guys, but we have a lot of talent too,” he said. “I think people are thinking we’re not going to do very well this year, but we have the chance to turn some heads and prove we have what it takes to win. It’s exciting.”
Although it’s not something he thinks about on a daily basis, DiFruscia has a bit of a chip on his shoulder heading into his sophomore season. Despite being eligible for this year’s NHL draft, he was passed over.
That’s only motivated him to work even harder this year.
“I’ve been focusing on getting faster and trying to get one step ahead of everyone and just working hard to be that player Marty really needs on his team,” he said. “I’m going to play my game – physical, fast, reliable defensively, but I’m definitely looking to contribute more offense.”
For Williamson, if DiFruscia can continue playing the way he did last season and increase his point totals, he could have a shot at getting drafted in 2014.
“I thought he would have been a steal in the later rounds,” said Williamson. “I know he’ll want to prove himself this season and I think he has the capabilities to do that.
“He competes, he’s a leader, he blocks shots and everything is important to him. Twenty-plus goals and that kind of effort he gives every night is a real asset for us and I think he’s going to have a great season.”
KELLY LEAVES FOR SCHOOL
The IceDogs announced Friday defenseman Broderick Kelly has left the team to concentrate on his schooling at Brock University.
The 18-year-old St. Catharines native played in 74 regular season games over the past two seasons with the IceDogs, picking up three goals and seven points.
Williamson had nothing but praise for Kelly when asked about his decision.
"I want to thank Broderick for all his contributions to the IceDogs during his time with us," said Williamson. "He is a great kid and we will definitely miss him, but I completely understand his decision."
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