Welcome to the Atlantic Junior Hockey League, now let’s see what you can do.
This was the message from the New York Bobcats to two of their youngest players this year, 1995-born forward Mike Conslato and defenseman Brent D’Iorio.
“Both have played well for us,” said head coach Mike Coppolla.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “I like being one of the younger players, to have the older guys to look up to. They’re good with leadership.”
D’Iorio has played in 16 of the Bobcats’ 22 games this season, registering two goals and five points.
Prior to this season, the Huntington, N.Y., resident suited up for the Long Island Royals U16 National team, coached by Hockey Hall of Fame Honoured Member Pat Lafontaine.
“I liked Coach Coppola as a coach and knew a couple of guys from my high school who went to the Bobcats and got good exposure,” said D’Iorio, about his reasons for joining the Bobcats. “It’s definitely more physical than what I’m used to playing. I’m playing with a lot bigger guys, so I’ve improved my physical game as well. It’s fast-paced.”
Conslato, out with an MCL tear between Oct. 6 and Nov. 29, played in five games and was hoping to earn his first Atlantic Junior League point upon his Nov. 29 return against the Connecticut Jr. Wolfpack or in early December.
“It’s been a great experience [with the Bobcats]. We have a great team and being a young guy on this team, the older players are showing us the ropes and including everyone,” he said.
Conslato came into this season with prior junior experience, playing 55 games the last two seasons for the New York Apple Core team in the Empire Junior League.
“I had a great group with the Apple Core, but this [Bobcats] group has been second to none,” said Conslato. “It was different for me [this year], not so much for the physical part, but the faster pace in the AJHL. You have to know what you’re doing with the puck all the time. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I’m able to handle it.”
Neither Conslato nor D’Iorio have any specific plans beyond this season, but rather are open to playing at the highest level they can achieve.
“I’m just finishing up high school. I’m not sure yet,” said D’Iorio. “I would like to eventually play Division 1 college hockey, so I’ll do the best I can to play at the highest level I can play.”
Read also: Lynch a big-time stopper in net for Bobcats