Scottsdale native, Jr. Coyotes grad Petruzzella chasing NCAA dreams with NCDC’s Bandits
When he’s home, and when it’s not 120 degrees in the shade, Scottsdale native Joey Petruzzella often puts a light pack on, ties on his trail-running shoes, and hits the dirt for some serious cardio.
His regular off-season training ground? Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale.
“Me and a few of my buddies will head over – that’s a favorite place to train and hike,” said Petruzzella, a longtime Jr. Coyotes player who is now playing in the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) with the Boston Bandits.
The NCDC is the highest of three junior tiers in the United States Premier Hockey League, the nation’s largest amateur hockey organization. The NCDC saw more than 50 NCAA Division I commitments last year and over 110 NCAA commitments in total last year.
Petruzzella is a regular on the blue line for the Bandits, who are right in the mix of the 12-team NCDC, sitting fifth as of Dec. 4. They were just one point out of third place, which carries with it home ice for the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a great, young group of guys. Once we put it all together, we can win it,” said Petruzzella, who has five points in 20 games this season. “I think we just have a great group of guys. We are all friends, and we all love coming to the rink every day.”
Petruzzella is actually a second-year NCDC player, having suited up last year for the Syracuse Jr. Stars. The league was a lot less balanced last year, as the top three teams then had a large gap over the bottom eight in what was then an 11-team circuit.
“The NCDC is a lot better top to bottom,” said Petruzzella. “Last year, there were a lot of games against the bottom of the league that were not as competitive. Now, any team can beat any team on any given night. It just makes you push harder every day to get better. Anyone on your team can play in any situation, so you have to separate yourself.”
Petruzzella said that playing for head coach Rich Alger, a former University of Massachusetts and Boston University defenseman, allows the Bandits players to separate themselves.
“Coach Alger is a great coach and would be considered a players’ coach, the type of coach you want to want to leave it all on the ice for every night,” added Petruzzella.
It also helps put the Bandits players on the radar for NCAA colleges, and Petruzzella sees himself offering much to college hockey teams.
“I’m a two-way defenseman, I skate pretty well, and I like to jump into the play offensively,” he said. “I just liked how close all the NCAA Division I and III schools are (to NCDC teams). It feels like we have more exposure. It’s a short drive for all the schools to come watch.”
Petruzzella is a 1999 birth year, so if he doesn’t make his commitment this year, he can still play another year of junior hockey.
“It would be great to achieve my career goal of a college commitment this year, but having one more year of junior eligibility allows me to keep all options open,” he said.
Petruzzella grew up with the game, being the son of a Buffalo native who was a hockey captain for Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Mass., in the 1980s. Braintree is not too far from Bridgewater, home of the Bandits.
“He introduced it to me and I loved it,” Petruzzella said. “I loved watching it, loved skating, loved playing roller hockey in the driveway.”
Once he was old enough, he joined the Jr. Coyotes program and stayed there through his first year of 16U hockey.
“From there, I went out and played AAA a couple years in Omaha, and from there, I was recruited by both the Bandits and Stars,” said Petruzzella. “I am very thankful that [Bandits assistant coach] Mark Jones scouted me while in Omaha and that we stayed in touch. I am very happy he brought me this year to be a part of the Bandits organization.”
The NCDC is just about at its midway point prior to Christmas, and Petruzzella said that as good as the Bandits have played, they can do even better before playoffs begin in late March.
“We just have to get a little more gritty, bear down in the offensive zone, get the shots on,” he said. “We also have to get pucks out of our zone the right way.”
Learn more about the USPHL’s Junior and Midget offerings at USPHL.com!
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(Dec. 31, 2018)