WATERFORD, MI – When the Metro Jets drafted Vinnie Pietrangelo early on in the 2009 Central States Hockey League draft, the team was banking on the rangy defenseman playing just one season with the Jets and then moving on to a higher level.
That has officially happened as the 19-year-old native of Traverse City, Mich., has committed to play Division III hockey at Finlandia University, a small school located in the town of Hancock in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, starting this fall. The Lions play in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association and the school is just one of two D-III schools in Michigan, with Adrian College being the other.
Pietrangelo played in 47 games last year for the Jets, scoring a power-play goal and adding seven assists for eight points. He said his year in Waterford was a defining year in helping him achieve his dream of playing college hockey.
“When I played at Traverse City West High School, my coaches knew that I wanted to play at the college level, so they contacted the coach at Finlandia and then told me that I needed to play a year of juniors if I wanted to play there,” said Pietrangelo. “The Metro Jets gave me that opportunity.
“The main thing that helped last year was it helped me become a little responsible with my offensive decisions, such as when to (join the rush) and when not to. I could pretty much get away with anything I wanted to at the high school level, but I found out quickly enough that wasn't the case at the junior level.”
“Vinnie struggled a bit early on as he found out how quickly the game transitions in our league,” Metro GM Butch Wolfe said. “However, he was able to make that adjustment. This should help him at Finlandia as the D-III game is quicker yet. We wish him all good luck and success over his next four years.”
Pietrangelo will join former Jets forward Troy Storm (2006-2007) on the Lions’ roster, while another ex-Metro forward, Brandon Van Acker (2004-2005), just completed his senior season with Finlandia. Two other Metro alums, Pete Kolasa and Brooks Olson, also saw time playing for Finlandia after playing in Waterford. Kolasa played in the 1990s and Olson was a member of the Jets’ 2002 Silver Cup-winning national Junior B championship squad.
Pietrangelo initially made the decision to play for the Lions before new head coach John McCabe took over in May. When McCabe took over the program, he did some research on Pietrangelo and realized he had a solid incoming recruit.
“Vinnie was one of the guys (whose commitment) I honored because of his character and his upside,” McCabe said. “I have done some background checks on him from his prior coaches and I know I am bringing in a great kid from a quality family. He will be a solid defenseman for us next year.”
When looking back at the fact that he has progressed rapidly through the high school ranks, CSHL and now to the college level, Pietrangelo showed a humble side when he discussed whom he credits most when a decision like this is made to advance his hockey career.
“I really give credit to my high school coaches, Jeremy Rintala and Bob Spence, and of course, Anthony Palumbo of the (North American Hockey League’s) Traverse City North Stars, who coached me in minor hockey and in high school, as well as my family because they have been very supportive of everything throughout the year,” Pietrangelo said. “In the CSHL, there are long bus rides to places like Dubuque and Pittsburgh, and my family traveled to most venues where we played.”
As for the future, Pietrangelo thinks he will be able to succeed at Finlandia, a school where he intends to pursue a degree in the medical field.
“I think my game will fit into the college game because I can adapt to most situations and read the plays that my opponents are making,” noted Pietrangelo. “I also feel my ability to jump up into the play and create something from the back end will fit well in college.
“Short term and long term, my goals are to play well and help the team be successful.”