In the span of one momentous week in July, Darren Rizzolo set the course of his hockey career for the better part of the next decade.
First, the 16-year-old Mission defenceman committed to the Chilliwack Chiefs of the B.C. Hockey League. He’ll spend the upcoming 2013-14 season playing for a team out of Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary hockey academy, and then join the Chilliwack junior A squad full-time in 2015-16.
Next, Rizzolo gave a verbal commitment to accept a full-ride scholarship from Northeastern University, an NCAA Div. 1 program located in Boston which plays in the prestigious Hockey East conference. It’s relatively rare for a player to secure his NCAA future before his Grade 11 school year begins, and Rizzolo will join the Huskies after a year or two with the Chiefs.
“It’s a pretty good feeling knowing that you’re kind of set for the future,” Rizzolo marveled. “There’s a lot of stress removed. It feels great.”
Rizzolo is coming off a terrific season with Yale’s Elite 15s squad – he led all defencemen in the Canadian Sport Schools Hockey League division in scoring with 27 points in 24 games, and helped the Lions to the division title.
In late May, he attended a camp in Los Angeles that was attended by a lot of coaches from college programs south of the border, and it was there that he drew the attention of Northeastern.
“I didn’t even know you could commit this early or that they approached you this early,” he said. “But it’s a great spot, and I don’t see a problem with committing now.
“It was just a great offer, and if I can get an education out of playing hockey, why turn it down?”
Rizzolo, who stands 5’10” and weighs 175 pounds, describes himself as an offensive-minded blueliner who plays with a gritty edge.
“I like to rush the puck, and I think I see the ice very well,” he said. “And I can certainly throw my weight around.”