Scottsdale native, Jr. Coyotes grad Gabriele finds key role for NCDC’s Stars
Jeremy Gabriele goes into his final year of junior hockey knowing one thing – he was one of the last Stars.
Indeed, the team that the ‘99 from Scottsdale suited up for in 2019-20, the Syracuse Jr. Stars, have moved operations to Utica, N.Y., and will play their forthcoming seasons as the Utica Jr. Comets, taking on the name and logo of that city’s American Hockey League franchise.
“It is an honor,” said Gabriele, a defenseman who played in 28 games for Syracuse in the National Collegiate Development Conference, the USPHL’s tuition-free top level of junior hockey. “Coach Paul Kelly reiterated to us before our last playoff series, and we knew the franchise was changing to Utica, so we wanted to win for Coach Kelly who had been in Syracuse for so long. Going on the winning runs that we did at the end of the season really put Syracuse on the map.”
With many decisions to make this offseason, Gabriele – a Mite-to-Midget player with the Jr. Coyotes – can’t say he is 100 percent sure where he’ll be playing in 2019-20, but he will play another junior season. If he is back with Utica, he will certainly be happy to wear the new colors with pride.
“Utica’s going to be awesome with lots of new stuff surrounding a new team,” he added. “I’m weighing a few options, but I certainly wouldn’t say anything bad about playing for Utica.”
Whichever 2019-20 team does get Gabriele, they’ll be getting a strong, 200-foot defenseman who is extremely determined to make himself an NCAA Division I prospect.
“I’m a high compete level, two-way, puck-moving defenseman,” said Gabriele. “I feel like I can run a power play pretty well. I’m a puck-moving defenseman who can move the puck north.”
And if Arizona State University were to take interest, that’d be a dream come true for the local product.
“Arizona State is a huge part of Arizona,” said Gabriele. “They went on that impressive, unbelievable run to the NCAA Tournament. Everyone’s really looking up to them and hopefully, I’ll be able to one day play for them.”
The ASU option wasn’t there when Gabriele came up through the Jr. Coyotes system, but what was there was amazing coaching. The coaches in the Jr. Coyotes organization that Gabriele played under carried extensive NHL and minor pro experience.
“I lived in Scottsdale all my life up to junior hockey,” Gabriele said. “My dad is from Chicago, and he always loved hockey. When we bought a house here, the Ice Den Scottsdale opened about five minutes away. My older and younger sisters both went right into figure skating, and I went into hockey. I just fell in love with the game.
“I wouldn’t be playing juniors without the coaches I played for, like Brian Savage, Derek King, Dave Ellett, Ulf Samuelsson, Shawn McCosh, Mike Vukonich, Nick Naumenko and Mike DeAngelis. All ex-pros, and they all helped me from Learn to Skate through Mites all the way to Midget 18U.
“That Jr. Coyotes program is unbelievable. We had two of our teams go on to Nationals. Shane Doan is coaching in the program now. They’re developing players well. There are a lot of outstanding, big-time players coming up.”
Another coach who he credits for getting him to the point where he certainly feels he can be a Division I prospect is the man he just completed his first season playing for in Kelly.
“He’s awesome, he pays attention to detail, and he expects a lot from us,” said Gabriele. “In practice, if we’re not doing something right, he’ll stop it. He always wants to make sure everyone is doing the right thing, and that we’re coming together as a team. It was the best team I’ve been on, system-wise. We were just perfect. Unfortunately, it didn’t end well, but Coach Kelly did an awesome job.”
Gabriele felt he got better in the corners and on 1-on-1’s, as well as becoming a go-to blueliner late in games for a Stars team that made the NCDC playoffs as the No. 6 seed. They fell in the playoffs to eventual runners-up, the No. 3 Connecticut Jr. Rangers.
“It was an unreal season. I thought we had the group to go all the way with it,” said Gabriele. “I feel really good about where I’m at. I got a lot of minutes, and I was really glad I got this year under my belt.”
Photo/Syracuse Jr. Stars
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(May 10, 2019)