“Is there a doctor in the house?”
That old catchphrase of vaudevillian vintage could have ricocheted throughout the Buffalo State Ice Arena after Bengals captain Mike Zannella suffered a gashed leg while taking the twirl before Friday’s clash with New England College.
It wasn’t, and there wasn’t, and Zannella, doing what comes naturally to a veteran leader, stopped up the leak and led his club to victory.
“We had a little pregame incident during warmups,” said Zannella. “I smashed my leg pretty good. I was supposed to get stitches before the game, but the doctor never made it. So I decided to just wrap it up and get them after the game.
“It was a tough way to come back from a two-week vacation. But what are you going to do? It could have been worse.”
Gimpy leg or no, Zannella was not deterred from applying loads of sandpaper in what was an at times contentious 5-1 win.
“I just tried to stay out of my teammates’ way,” said Zannella. “I had enough going on.”
Zannella, a junior who hails from Ithaca, N.Y., has had it all going on for most of the season, particularly in front the opposing goalie. Heading into last weekend, Zannella led all D-III goal scorers — and was tied for the lead in all divisions — with 12 tallies in 13 games. That matched his goal total for his first two seasons, including just four during an injury-shortened campaign last year.
“Because of my teammates, I’ve been able to pick up a few rebounds around the net,” Zannella said. “I’m not a coast-to-coast guy. You’re not going to see me on ESPN going coast-to-coast, but you will see me digging away until that whistle blows.”
Zannella was held goal-less this past weekend, but nevertheless found a way to contribute mightily to the Bengals cause.
“On Friday,” said Zannella, who, at 5-11 and 190, is not exactly brutish, “we just didn’t bring the physicality from the start, for some reason. But if that’s what I need to do, I need to go out and lay the body. I took a couple penalties, but I don’t think coach (Nick Carriere) really minded. He’d rather see the fire there than nothing.”
Carriere was in full agreement.
“‘Z’ is wearing the ‘C’ for us this year,” Carriere said, “(because) above and beyond, he’s just a fierce, fierce competitor. He cares, and is not afraid to confront people. When it comes down to him being the guy, whether it’s a power play situation or whatever, when he’s put in a role, he’s going to do whatever he can. If he’s the guy who has to shoot, or if he has to make a play, he’s done it a million times. He stays out (on the ice) late or comes in early in the morning just to shoot pucks.
“When he gets going, sometimes the other guys get going, too.”
Zannella, who is a business administration major (“It’s the hockey player’s major”), takes many of his cues from another native Ithacan, Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, who hoisted the Stanley Cup with his mates last June.
Brown, who is the perennial NHL leader in body hits, played high school hockey with Zannella’s older brother, and remains a role model for Zannella.
“You couldn’t meet a nicer person,” he said. “I’ve been watching Dustin for a while. I saw him win a state championship when he was a ninth-grader. For him to come from practically nothing to being a Stanley Cup captain is amazing.”
If you think of it, so is leading a team to victory with one bloody leg.
Short on experience now, but not short on talent. Sitting just one point out of first place in the SUNYAC, Geneseo will head into the season’s second half minus the services of veteran netminder Adrian Rubeniuk, who underwent lower body surgery during the Christmas break.
In his stead, the Ice Knights crease is being manned — and capably — by youngsters Brian Haude (a sophomore) and freshman Nick Horrigan.
Haude responded by allowing just one goal in two games just before the break, while Horrigan, making his first-ever collegiate start, starred in last Saturday’s 6-2 win over Salve Regina.
Horrigan, who stands a gangly 6 feet 3 inches and 175 pounds, said he and Haude are both up to the challenge.
“We feel like we’re ready,” said Horrigan. “We’ve watched ‘Ruby’ and learned a lot from him. We feel like we’re ready to take the load, and we’re ready to do it together.”
It appeared that Horrigan might have to carry it solo for a while after Haude was injured in the third minute of Tuesday’s 3-1 loss.
However, according to Geneseo bench boss Chris Schultz, Haude is expected to be ready for this weekend’s games with visiting Franklin Pierce.
“We took him out as a precaution,” Schultz said. “(It’s) nothing serious.”
Meanwhile, Schultz said that Rubeniuk could be ready to go by the playoffs.
NOTES: The early days of 2013 have brought more player commitments to SUNYAC schools. Among those ticketed for future delivery are forwards Josh Timpano (Trenton OJHL) and Manny Gialedakis (Alberni Valley BCHL), both headed to Oswego, and forward Vincent Caligiuri (Hartford AtJHL), who will skate for Potsdam. Caligiuri’s WolfPack linemate Anthony Beaumont will head to Buffalo State, while Trenton (OJHL) forward Nick Marinac will join a flock of Golden Hawks teammates at Brockport.