November 19, 2009 - 10:53 PM
Grand Island's Mark Zarbo is fighting for ice time with Rensselaer Polytechic Institute this season.
He had been a healthy scratch through the Engineers' first 11 hockey games until he finally got the call to play against Niagara on Wednesday night in an arena roughly 10 minutes away from his hometown.
Zarbo, who transfered to the Troy-based school from Bentley in Waltham, Mass. after the 2006-07 season, had no goals or assists in RPI's 4-1 loss to Niagara, but he wasn't on for any goals either. That's always a good thing when a player is trying to earn a regular lineup spot.
Zarbo, a 6-foot, 190-pounder, is the ultimate stay-at-home defenseman with three goals and 12 points in 67 career games … including two goals and five points for the Engineers.
"You can't let it get to you," said Zarbo, who played in 32 games with RPI last year. "You've just got to keep working. You just got to have fun. As long as you're having fun it never becomes a job or anything like that and eventually I'll get my chance.
"Obviously this was an opportunity I've been waiting for. It was awesome to be able to play in my (old) home rink. (Dwyer Arena) is actually the rink I grew up playing in so I was real excited for this game. ... It was fun, a lot of fun."
Other notes from Wednesday night's win in which Niagara experienced the thrill of victory for the first time in 11 starts:
-- A week ago freshmen Brent Vandenberg and Giancarlo Iuorio were among candidates auditioning in practice for ice time on NU's second power-play unit.
They had starring roles in the win as Niagara had three power-play goals on six chances after entering the game 4 for 37. They had the momentum-changing tallies late in the second period after RPI had tied the game at 1-1 earlier in the period and both goals were proof that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Vandenberg scored on the rebound after a pair of Iuorio shots were stopped, while Iuorio outmuscled a RPI defenseman 1:23 later to get his stick on a backdoor feed from Vandenberg for the not-so-easy looking tap-in goal.
-- In the search to find out when the last time Niagara junior goalie Adam Avramenko earned a win, The Buffalo News stumbled upon an inconsistency.
It appears Avramenko's last win before Wednesday came March 8, 2008 at Wayne State. That's according to archives at U.S. College Hockey Online (uscho.com), but the Niagara archives for that season credit Juliano Pagliero with that win in which both goalies played. The team's final stats for that season have Avramenko with five wins even though the archived box scores from the March 7, 2008 loss at Wayne had him with a 4-4 record. He had been 4-2 as of Jan. 11, 2008 win over Robert Morris.
So we're deducing that March 8, 2008 was the last time Avramenko earned a win before Wednesday's 19-save effort.
Regardless of how long he went in between wins, the Purple Eagles won't experience any success on the ice unless Avramenko plays with consistency. They have way too much talent up front and on defense to be 1-8-2 a week before Thanksgiving. That record speaks to a lack of consistent goaltending, which is why coach Dave Burkholder, a former goalie, has been tough on his junior netminder.
"I let him have it in the paper after one game. I let him have it in front of the team Saturday against Robert Morris. For him to respond like this ... he played great," Burkholder said. "Everything looked so easy for him (Wednesday night). ... This will help his confidence."
Burkholder has been known to be tough on goalies but also knows when to use a gentle approach to help their psyches.
"I skated by him quietly Monday … I didn't even tell (assistant coach) Greg (Gardner) this … and said, 'Hey buddy, look you're going Wednesday. Let's prepare well and have two good days.' I could just see in his face that it was like a relief I was coming back with him."