By Jenna Notarfrancesco, Staff Writer
Last year, Hofstra goalie Jared Occhicone effortlessly kicked out shots leading the Pride's roller hockey team to seven victories. The freshman carried most of the workload in the net and finished the season posting a 4.70 goals against average and a 0.849 save percentage, which is the best save percentage in the country amongst all freshmen, according to associate head coach A.J. Frey.
The highest level of the club, the D1 team is now 3-1 after their first tournament last weekend in Feasterville, PA where Occhicone won both his starts, giving up only four goals combined in his two wins against Towson and West Point.
Occhicone started skating at five years old and went on to play ice hockey and lacrosse at Pope John XXIII High School in Sparta, NJ. He was offered the opportunity to try out for the NCAA varsity lacrosse team during orientation week but seeing the roller club table scratched Occhicone's hockey itch and called him back to the rink.
Occhicone showed up for the first day of roller hockey tryouts Saturday afternoon with the intention of playing defense, but the team needed another goalie and he graciously accepted the position change.
After just one practice and meeting the coaches and the guys on the team, Occhicone knew he would be playing roller hockey for a while.
"I met everybody and said, ‘Okay, I don't need to play lacrosse, I would rather just stay here.' It was more the team and the coaches and the family aspect of it than anything else," said Occhicone.
There is a learning curve associated with roller hockey, for Occhicone, who used to play ice hockey, because unlike ice, goalies on roller skates cannot slide, but Occhicone eventually learned how to move and to recognize how players shoot. Despite a solid progression, Occhicone still considers roller hockey to be a more difficult sport than ice hockey.
"Looking at him at the beginning of the year when he looked a little nervous perhaps, towards the end of the year when absolutely nothing fazed him, I guess it was more mental than physical the changes that he saw," said Frey.
This year Occhicone plans to be more vocal in talking with the coaches about things seen during the game. His view from the net gives him a totally different perspective of the game, allowing him to see things that may not be apparent to offensive players huddled around a puck.
According to Frey, goalies are not traditionally captains of hockey teams, if the coaches could name him a captain, they would. Frey felt the excellence he displays both on and off the ice sets him apart from everyone else on the team. Not only his skills, but also the way he carries himself, his work ethic and his determination make him a strong leader and asset to the team.
"He is by far the best athlete on the team. He could probably play any sport out there he wouldn't even have to think about it. Just throw him out there he would be great," Frey said. "I think that carries over to his athleticism out there, his ability to go from side to side and to make plays that I haven't seen guys in the league ever make."
In honor of his leadership Occhicone received the Coaches Award at last year's banquet. It encompasses more than statistics and is an award given to a player who is not only extremely talented, but who demonstrates the right attitude off the rink as well.
Occhicone is also nationally recognized for his playing. He was invited to try out for the Under-19 USA team, which is part of USA Roller Sports, the sanctioned body for all roller sports under the United States Olympic Committee, recruiting the top players from the entire country.
After making the team, which was comprised of 12 skaters and two goalies, Occhicone flew to Dusseldorf, Germany, where he represented the nation at the World Championships.