Teamwork, Dedication Carry Fitchburg State’s DiNicola to Scoring Milestone
FITCHBURG -- The date was Oct. 31, 2015.
The Fitchburg State ice hockey team had already staked a 1-0 lead over Wentworth in the consolation game of the IC Federal Credit Union Shootout when a second shot found the back of the net.
With 7:16 left in the first period, freshman Nick DiNicola potted the first goal of his Falcon career. It certainly wasn’t the last point the Wolcott, Connecticut, native would notch.
Not even in that game (a 7-2 victory).
DiNicola finished the night with two goals and two assists and completed his freshman campaign with seven goals and 17 helpers. A great start.
Three full seasons and one jersey number change (from 14 as a freshman to 18 every season since, though the captain’s C was added to his sweater prior to this current semester), DiNicola continues to put up points. And on Saturday, he reached the 100-career point plateau with a goal and three assists in a 4-1 win over Anna Maria at the Wallace Civic Center -- reaching the century mark in the same rink where he notched his first point.
“It was in the back of my mind at the start of the season, but it’s easy to get to something like that with the group of guys we have in here,” DiNicola said prior to Tuesday’s practice. “Playing with a guy like Sascha (Figi) and (Chris) Vicario stepping up with (Tyler Warila) out, there’s not a lot of pressure. Playing with them makes it a lot easier on me.
“I don’t really see it as an individual thing because without those guys, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get there.”
Against the AmCats, DiNicola -- a 5-foot-7, 170-pound wing -- picked up a goal and an assist in the first period, then picked up assists on a pair of Figi goals in the second to reach the century mark.
“That was pretty cool. To get 100 points, you have to be a consistent player from your freshman year on,” Falcons head coach Dean Fuller said. “Nick has gotten better and better and better.”
After putting up 24 points as a freshman, DiNicola added 21 more as a sophomore. But he really made his mark last season, scoring 11 goals while dishing out 35 helpers, leading all of Division 3 in assists per game (1.33).
“He had a great season last year, leading the country in assists, and I expected even more from him this season,” Fuller said. “So far, he’s delivered.”
In just five games this fall, DiNicola -- who’s majoring in business management -- has nine points on two goals and seven assists. For his career, he’s distributed 75 helpers.
But Fuller says that the intangibles the senior tri-captain brings in terms of leadership -- both vocally and through his play -- have been as valuable to the team this season as his contributions on the scoresheet.
DiNicola points to his familiarity with a veteran Falcons group as a large factor in his offensive prowess.
“It makes everything easier, on the ice, off the ice,” DiNicola said. “Things are already in place and it feels like home. Everyone’s comfortable so it makes things easier and a lot more fun to play the game.”
Casting aside his forward’s humility, Fuller says DiNicola’s success stems from his work ethic and mix of speed and creativity on the ice.
“He can do a lot at high speed,” Fuller said of the senior. “He’s very fast and he can do things very quickly, which separates him from the rest of the pack.”
DiNicola, his 100 points reached, has another goal in mind for the remainder of the season: returning to the NCAA Division 3 tournament and picking up a victory in the national tourney. Last season, after qualifying as MASCAC champions, the Falcons fell, 3-1, to Nichols in the opening round.
“I watched that Nichols-Salve Regina game after we lost and that was a close game, too,” DiNicola recalled. “We felt like didn’t come out as hard and as heavy as we wanted to, so with the game being that close, we felt like we were right there.
“We keep battle and coming to the rink and working hard every day, hoping that we can get back there.”
Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.