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Ciccone balances hockey and engineering curriculum

Will Ciccone

Oct. 24, 2003

By Lindsey Mechalik, LSSU Sports Information intern

Sophomore goaltender William Ciccone sets the bar high when balancing school and hockey. Ciccone was named the Lake Superior State hockey team's outstanding student athlete as a freshman after building an impressive 3.75 grade point average in mechanical engineering.

"I love learning new information in order to help out my teammates. They usually come to me for help in math," said Ciccone. "They know not to come to me for English help. I'm better in French because of going to a French high school. We were the biggest French high school in Ontario. All subjects were taught in French. Much of English class was even spoken in French."

Ciccone would eventually like to design hockey equipment. He plans to obtain a business degree after earning his engineering degree. Because of being bilingual, with these two degrees, his skills would be in high demand.

While attending high school in Timmins, Ont., Ciccone received the Chris Martin Bursary, which is the biggest bursary at his school, and was named athlete of the year when he was in Grade 11. In 2001-02, Ciccone was named top goaltender for the Great North Midget League and first team all-star. He also broke Marty Turco's record for lowest goals-against average of 2.23 with a gaa of 1.82.

These days he sets an example for his teammates as a role player. He is the Lakers' No. 3 goaltender and sees very little ice time. But he has made great strides in the weight room. He has played a part in helping junior Matt Violin evolve into one of the top goaltenders in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and freshman Jeff Jakaitis adapt to the college game.

"I really appreciate Coach Anzalone for being honest with me," Ciccone said. "He told me from the beginning that I would probably not get a lot of ice time. I just always tried to stay positive and realize that I am playing Division I hockey and getting to go to school. I look for positives in other places than just games, like if I do well on a test and then have a good practice."

In his spare time, Ciccone enjoys doing magic. Recently his teammates have discovered his hidden talent and pester him to perform his tricks. When he was younger, a hockey accident that fractured his finger somewhat limited his ability to do tricks properly.

"I used to be really good at magic," Ciccone said. "But the thing about magic is it's all about the hands being quicker than the eyes. My magic days died when I had a broken index finger on my right hand. I had not practiced magic until I recently gave a speech in one of my classes. I wanted to see if I could do my tricks with my rehabilitated finger. I know that there is a difference in the way I do my tricks. The first rule of magic is not to do the same trick twice in the same setting, which is very hard with my teammates. They try to make me do them over and over. They have gotten pretty good at not pressing it too much."

Ciccone has been playing hockey since the age of three. He had to make a choice between a few different activities because of not having enough time.

"My mom was a dance teacher when I was little," Ciccone said. "I took some classes with her and always had fun being one of the only boys. My dad got me started in hockey. I knew all of the girls and didn't know any of the boys playing hockey. One day he sat me down and said that we didn't have enough time for me to dance and play hockey. I told him I wanted to dance because I knew everyone. My dad packed my hockey bag, brought me to the rink, and that was it. I have been playing ever since."

Ciccone has not always been a goalie. He played defense before stepping between the pipes.

"I started playing goalie because I thought the equipment was cool when I was little," he said. "I liked watching goalies in net. I thought goalie was the coolest position because they stand there and single-handedly dictate what happens in the game. A team can put 150 shots on a goalie, and if he didn't let it in, who cares. If he can play the puck, he can score a goal. He can set up goals. I would be so excited when I would see a goalie make a pass to a guy who would then go and score a goal. I wasn't impressed by a guy who takes a 90 mile per hour slap shot from the hash marks like everyone else. I was impressed by the guy that could catch it."

When Ciccone was younger playing hockey, he was given the nickname "Willy the Wall." The nickname stuck with him through pre-college hockey.

"When I was little, I was chunky," Ciccone said. "I was a defensemen not a goalie. I always wanted to be a goalie. My parents thought it was just a phase. They made a deal and said if I saved up enough money to buy my own equipment they would put me in net. When I got enough money, my parents rewarded me by saying they would buy my equipment and I could use my money to buy my mask. I had planned on just using a player mask, but I had a lot of money to buy a mask and get it painted."

He was easily identified with his new mask.

"I had bricks put all over the helmet with graffiti," Ciccone said. "The neatest thing is I used to write "The Wall" in big blue tape letters on my stick. Wherever I would play they wouldn't remember me as Willy Ciccone. They would remember me as 'Willy the Wall,' the kid with that helmet and the stick. In later years, guys would remember playing against me when we were like six years old. I had the helmet until coming to Lake State."

Coming into LSSU immediately after graduating from high school, Ciccone joined a team with two NHL drafted goaltenders. Being the rookie behind two more-experienced goalies, he played in only one game against the University of Michigan.

"The speed difference between midget AAA and college was enormous," Ciccone said. "It took a good month of practice before my reflexes could catch up. The coaching between the two levels was unbelievably different. In Timmins, our coaches were great guys whose job it was to encourage us. They were more like our friends. I just loved being in net my freshman year (at LSSU) for the drills, because they were so complex.

"Last year I really liked being known as the "young guy." I never looked at it as a disadvantage. Instead, I tried to use it as motivation. I really had to work to keep up with guys in the weight room, whose bodies were at a more mature level because of age and experience.

"This summer I worked on my puck handling skills and catching the puck," he said. "I did everything I could on reflex drills to work on better hand-eye coordination. I followed coach's workout plan and came back in a lot better shape. I hope to earn the net in a few more games this season."

Ciccone, along with his teammates, are looking forward to starting a new season.

"Everyone is pretty excited about this season because we have seen the freshman play and they are all very talented," he said. "All of our large sophomore class has a year under our belts and a summer of conditioning. We are all in a lot better shape than last year. Hopefully now, in a tight game, instead of going down by two goals we will be the team getting the third-period breaks and pulling ahead.

"We know what to expect this year. I think some of the guys last year expected a little easier route. They didn't think the other teams would be so fast and strong. We all came from pretty good teams before being here at Lake State. A lot of them were championship teams. Some people came in expecting to continue with that. Now we all realize there is more to hockey than where we came from. The team knows what we have to do to be competitive. It is easier to play now because we have a set goal that we are trying to get to.

"I have matured a lot. A lot of little things got to me last season. I really didn't understand the 'big picture' of the team. I realize that Coach isn't just looking to have a good year. He is looking into the future and down the road. I understand that if Coach plays Jakaitis this year, he is looking down the road towards his senior year and after Violin graduates."

According to Ciccone, the Lakers are looking forward to implementing the coaching staff's changes in style of play.

"I think we are going to be a lot more offensive than last year," he said. "Coach changed a lot of the systems from last year. We seem to have a better understanding of them. Hopefully you will see a little bit more structured Laker hockey team this year. All the games should be close if we play our system properly every night."

So far, the Lakers seem to have a single-minded focus.

"My favorite thing about Laker hockey is the tradition," Ciccone said. "There is so much heritage here. When we run around the top of the arena, around Laker Avenue, we see all the pictures of past players. It is amazing to see all of the all-Americans and national champions. I love to go past all of the banners from past players who have been in the Olympics. I can only imagine how unbelievable it must have been in Sault Ste. Marie when our school was winning national championships. Hopefully we can be apart of that again."

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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