Albuquerque’s Faturos a rare New Mexico native in NCAA ranks
It’s funny to look back and think that Nick Faturos initially started playing hockey because he “thought it looked cool.”
Fast forward several years and the Albuquerque native and Amherst College freshman defenseman is the lone New Mexico native in NCAA Division III men’s hockey this season and just the second overall after Santa Fe native Jackson Barliant, who is playing D-I at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.
Faturos lived in Albuquerque until his sophomore year of high school and as a youth, played for the New Mexico Jr. Scorpions organization.
“Knowing that my family and I knew absolutely nothing about hockey, my coach, Frank Mastrandrea, went with us to the local hockey store and helped us find equipment,” remembered Faturos. “I played a couple of seasons on the recreational team and then made the jump to travel hockey with the New Mexico State Hockey team. Once again, Coach Mastrandrea was a key component in convincing my family and I that I was ready for travel.”
Along the way in his home state, Faturos said he had “a host of great coaches,” including Peter Ambroziak and Kim Colyer. After his freshman year of high school playing for the Albuquerque Outkast, Faturos and his mother moved to Michigan.
“I wanted to pursue hockey at the highest level I could and I wanted to move to a more hockey-intensive part of the country,” said Faturos. “My mom has family in Western Michigan, so if I was going to move, Michigan seemed the appropriate place. For me, the decision to move was pretty straightforward. It took a little bit of persuading, but finally my parents (Tom and Kathryn) agreed to give Michigan a chance.”
Once in Michigan, Faturos played two seasons of high school at East Grand Rapids High School, making it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament as a junior. For his senior year of 2013-14, Faturos made the jump to AAA hockey with the Michigan Nationals 18U squad. He also played for the Nationals 18U team in 2014-15 and helped the team take second place in the state.
Those two seasons with the Nationals proved to be beneficial as the team’s head coach, Terry Sanford, had connections to the Amherst coaching staff and started to put the wheels in motion.
“Towards the end of my first year, I had a meeting with Terry and he asked me what my aspirations were for hockey,” said Faturos. “I explained that it had always been a dream of mine to play NCAA hockey. I received a call from Amherst a few weeks later and began the conversation. As my second year with the Nationals unfolded, I sent lots of game film so the coaches could get an understanding of how I played. I briefly talked to several other NESCAC schools, but Amherst always stood out as my top choice.”
Faturos committed to Amherst last March and now on campus, is pursuing a degree in the pre-med undergraduate program. The Lord Jeffs also made the D-III Frozen Four last spring and Faturos is enjoying his time on and off the ice in Massachusetts this season.
“I had no idea what to expect when I first got to Amherst,” said Faturos. “I want to prove that I can play at the NCAA level and help the team in any way I can. The success of last season serves as a high bar of excellence and the players and coaching staff work extremely hard to continue to build off that success.”
Making his NCAA debut on Nov. 24 against St. Michael’s College, Faturos said he was “extremely nervous,” but pulled it together.
“Pulling on the Amherst sweater for the first time gave me chills – it was a surreal experience,” beamed Faturos. “All the effort from my parents, my coaches growing up, and everyone else that had helped me along the way seemed worth it. I was proud that I reached this point and that I could show that the long hours had paid off.”
— Matt Mackinder