Masucci's leadership as Williams hockey on doorstep of Final Four


WILLIAMSTOWN >> This isn't the first time Tyler Young has skated on a hockey team that Zander Masucci has been the captain of.

"He was captain of my team when we played together in juniors" with the New York Apple Core, Young said. "Right away I could see when I came in, being the young guy on the team, that he had unbelievable leadership skills. Lead by example, and really sets an unbelievable tone in the locker room.

"It's great to come to Williams and play under him for two years again."

Masucci has had himself one heck of a season. The Eph captain was the NESCAC player of the year and is the finalist for two major college hockey awards. He is a candidate for the Concannon Award, given to the best American-born player, and the Sid Watson Award which goes to the best Division III player.

"It's humbling" to be the captain of the Williams team, Masucci said during an interview before practice earlier this week. "It's definitely a respected position, and I'm definitely grateful that I was able to get those votes.

"Being a leader is something I take very seriously. Being a captain is a big role."

Masucci will lead the Ephs to Western New York tonight for an NCAA Division III hockey tournament Elite Eight game against SUNY-Geneseo. The winner of the 7 p.m. contest will advance to the Final Four next weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Williams is on its first run through the NCAA hockey tournament. The Ephs, who were top seeds in the NESCAC Tournament, lost in the quarterfinals to Tufts and had to wait for an at-large bid to the 11-team tourney. They got it and beat Salem State 7-1 in last week's first-round game.

It has been quite a season for the senior defenseman from Far Hills, N.J. He earned NESCAC player of the year honors by leading the Ephs to the regular-season championship. Masucci is second on the team in scoring with seven goals and 13 assists. He has two game-winning goals and three power-play goals. He is also the top Eph in plus-minus. Incredibly enough, he has yet to take a penalty this year.

But ask Masucci about the NESCAC award and about his being a finalist for the Concannon and Watson Awards, and he quickly turns the talk back to the rest of the guys in his locker room.

"It's crazy, but it speaks to the nature of the team and the success of the team," Masucci said. "You look at some of my successes specifically, and I wouldn't have had as many goals as I did if C.J. Shugart wasn't blinding the goalie on half of my goals, or [Alex] Hagerty throwing a great pass to me on the goal against Tufts.

"There are moments throughout the season I can point to that it's a full team effort."

Williams coach Bill Kangas, in his 27th season, hasn't had a NESCAC player of the year since Alex Smigelski in 2010. The Eph mentor called Masucci a tremendous leader.

"He's a very incredible teammate and competitor, just a great leader," said the Eph coach. "He's led by example. He's led by voice. He's been the consummate teammate. I've been very impressed with how he's carried himself all year.

"With him, it's never been about the future. It's been about 'today.' When he communicates about his team and about what we're doing or what he's doing, he's only focused on today's practice. That's the way our team has been."

And not only was Masucci Young's captain in juniors and at Williams, the Eph defenseman had a hand in bringing the forward from Sayville, N.Y. to Williams.

"It definitely did. Zander was very, very influential in the recruiting process," said Young. "He had unbelievable things to say about the school. I think that was a major influence in me coming here."

Masucci has, of this there is no doubt, an outstanding resume. But one gets the feeling he'll trade it all for a win over Geneseo tonight.

To do that, the Ephs will have to shut down a line that has scored more than 50 goals. Like leading Williams, Masucci says it's a challenge he and his teammates will have to be ready for.

"It's definitely a challenge. [Stephen Collins and Trevor Hills] are two of the best players in the country. It's really fun to play against those guys too, because they bring a whole different element to the game," said Masucci. "It makes our team and our preparation to stick to what we do.

"It's even more important that we play a full team defense."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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