Fitchburg State Hockey Stars Earn Spots with Pro Teams
FITCHBURG -- Former Fitchburg State defenseman Josh Victor admits the days following a loss to Worcester State in the MASCAC tournament on Feb. 23 were pretty tough.
For any player, the end of a season is a time of reflection, but for seniors, saying goodbye to the collegiate game is especially difficult. Victor was among those who had played his last NCAA contest and was just coming to terms with it when his phone rang on Tuesday.
“I went from a pretty low place to suddenly feeling pretty good,” Victor recalled.
The call that pulled him up from the doldrums came from the Atlanta Gladiators, an ECHL club looking to shore up its defensive corps. With Victor’s collegiate career in the books, the team reached out to him with a contract and the Killeen, Texas, native packed his bags and headed south.
“It’s humbling and an amazing opportunity,” Victor said Friday night from Duluth, Georgia, where he was a scratch for Atlanta’s 3-2 victory over Greenville. “I was really thrilled to get the chance to join a team at this level and continue my playing career.”
The ECHL is likened to Double-A baseball, ranking just below the AHL, which serves as the primary minor league feeder system for the NHL. The Worcester Railers are also a member of the ECHL.
Victor is one of three former Falcons who will continue in the pro ranks. Forwards Nick DiNicola and Ricky Kramer will be heading to the Southern Professional Hockey League to join the Pensacola Ice Flyers and Knoxville Ice Bears, respectively.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because you wish you were still playing in the playoffs with the boys (at Fitchburg State), but it’s definitely exciting,” DiNicola said Saturday afternoon. “I’m not much of a hot-weather guy, so playing in Florida will be different, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s a new experience and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Kramer was set to make his pro debut Saturday night against the Peoria Rivermen in Illinois. He had taken part in one full practice and a pair of light skates with the team after arriving in Knoxville this week.
“The coach here gave me a call and asked me to come down,” Kramer said Saturday evening. “So far, the skill level here has been higher; the passes are crisper, the shots are harder, there’s more attention to every detail. It’s a step up, but it’s not massive and it’s a skill league, which I think plays to my strengths.”
DiNicola etched himself in the FSU record books with a career that saw the forward score 134 points, good for 17th in program history. His 97 assists are the eighth most by a Falcon.
“I had hoped to get a little interest from some ECHL teams, but this time of year is a hotbed for teams, and it’s tough when you’re a little smaller,” said DiNicola, who’s listed at 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds. “But I had some friends helping out with getting me in touch with clubs, including (former Fitchburg State standout and All-American) Joey Caveney, who played for Pensacola.
“The team was interested in me and Joe had nothing but good things to say about the organization, which is second to none in that league.”
Victor played in 106 games over four seasons for the Falcons, serving as a captain along with DiNicola and Connor MacPherson in his final season and tallying 25 points in his career. Kramer tallied 84 points -- including 28 goals -- in 108 contests during his four years at Fitchburg State.
“It’s great to be able to keep your career going,” Victor said. “Coach (Dean Fuller) and his staff kept me on the ice after my junior career was done and now I’m getting the chance to keep playing (in Atlanta). It’s a blessing.”