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The Statesman


Cassano’s leadership helps Seawolves hockey rise

Daniel Cassano originally attended NCAA Division-III Neumann University before transfering to Stony Brook. Photo by Adrian Szkolar.
Daniel Cassano originally attended NCAA Division-III Neumann University before transfering to Stony Brook. Photo by Adrian Szkolar.

Daniel Cassano remembers playing hockey with older kids as early as the age of four. Now he plays Division I club hockey for one of the biggest named colleges in Stony Brook. He is an alternate captain on a team that reached Nationals again, its 13th time in 14 seasons.

But Cassano didn’t start his collegiate hockey career at Stony Brook. He originally went to Division III, Neumann University in Pennsylvania. They were fresh off of a National Championship, but Cassano decided to stay one semester and come back home and go to Stony Brook. Head coach Chris Garofalo finally got his man and Cassano went right to work.

“Coach Garofolo had been in contact with me for many years and it seemed like a great fit,” Cassano said.

Since coming to Stony Brook, Cassano and the Seawolves have been impressive.  The team reached the National tournament every season that Cassano played except for the 2011-12 season. Just this past season they reached Nationals again, defeating University of Rhode Island, but fell to Adrian College in the second round.

It was a disappointment for the team, but it is looking to improve on it in the future.

“I just feel the consistency factor is the biggest key.  The best teams are the best teams for a reason.  They are consistently prepared and willing to pay the price to win every single night.  I feel that we wanted to win but in some cases weren’t willing to do whatever it took as far as being physical, staying out of the penalty box and playing within our system.  If we can do that we will be a force to be reckoned with next season,” Cassano said.

One of the reasons the team has been able to make it to Nationals constantly has to do with their coach and how he prepares them. Coach Garofalo has been able to schedule the team games against some of the toughest opponents around the country to prepare the Seawolves mentally and physically. Just this past season, the team took on No. 1 Arizona State University and lost by only one goal in both games. In the first game, the Seawolves fell in a shootout, and in the second game, they lost in overtime. Pretty impressive for a club team to just barely lose to the top team in the country, who was 22-4 at the time.

Cassano finished the 2012-13 season with 39 points in 31 games. Through his career at Stony Brook, Cassano has a total of 104 points; 39 goals and 65 assists. Photo by Adrian Szkolar.

“That showed me that we had come a long way as a program from when I first got here a few years back,” Cassano said.

Mike Cacciotti is the captain of the team and Cassano is one of the leaders on the team, sharing alternate captain duties with Wesley Hawkins and Sean Collins.

“I took being named an alternate captain very seriously when I was told by Coach Garafolo.  Its quite an honor and it was something that the players on the team voted on so to have the respect of your fellow teammates it was something I took great pride in, knowing that my teammates thought I was someone they thought would be a good leader,” Cassano said.

As an alternate captain, Cassano helps lead the team by example. He helps lead the underclassmen both on an off the ice. It could be something like learning a new play or even picking a class to take, and Cassano will be there for his teammates.

“I always try to set the example to my teammates that no matter what it is, practice or game, hard work and preparation are vital to success.  I give 100 percent every time I stepped on the ice and tried to be a role model for what a Stony Brook hockey player should be, dedicated, intense and passionate,” Cassano said.

Cassano has already had an impressive run in hockey, but there is one thing that tops it all for him: He was selected to the New York State 16-Year Old team, which had the 20 best 16-year olds on it. Among those was current NHL star Patrick Kane, along with other top Division-I players.

“Pretty surreal when I think back on it,” Cassano said.

But it isn’t just personal accolades for the senior from Deer Park; he also takes pride in winning the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League Conference Championship last season.

“Anytime you win a championship as a member of a team its special and you share a bond with your teammates forever. We had always fallen short when we played Delaware and to finally be able to come together as a team and beat them in their own rink and be able to lift the championship trophy, it was an amazing experience.  To be able to share it with my teammates was both fun and rewarding,” Cassano said.

Despite being a senior this season, Cassano will be back next year in hopes of finally winning a National championship. He gained an extra year of eligibility after tearing his ACL during his sophomore season.

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