Tuesday March 25, 2014 | By:Matthew Ondesko, Community Papers of WNY Editor | Sports
SPRINGVILLE — Most freshman playing at a Division I hockey school like the University of Minnesota-Duluth are just worried about getting ice time and contributing, when called upon.
They never dream of stepping right up and leading a team in scoring, or being put on the top line.
For Eden native Alex Iafallo, his dream is becoming a reality, as he leads the Bulldogs in scoring, with 19 points, and ties for first in goals, with 10.
Success is something that Iafallo has seen a lot of, during his hockey career. He said that he knew that, with hard work and determination, he could contribute right away. And that is exactly what he has done.
“I knew I would have success if I came to the rink every day with a positive attitude and expecting to work hard,” he said from Duluth, Minn. “Being a freshman and learning from the older guys on the team of the hard work and tradition from past years motivated myself and the other freshmen.”
Just like a lot of freshmen, the learning curve has been steep, at times. The speed of the game is faster. The shots are faster and the body checks hurt just a little bit more.
“Essentially, hockey is the same game, throughout all levels; it just gets elevated as you go higher,” said Iafallo. “Therefore, I knew I had to pick up my game and work on all aspects.”
Duluth is a perfect fit for Iafallo, the Western New Yorker said.
When he went on his campus visit, Iaffalo said he knew this was the right place for him.
“Minnesota-Duluth feels like home to me,” he said. “It is an enjoyable community, located on Lake Superior, with fantastic views, the second you step outside. Duluth isn’t a big city, but it’s not small either – which is what I like about it.”
What he also liked about it was the Bulldogs’ style of play. Iaffalo described himself as someone who uses his speed and playmaking abilities to his advantage. He said that part of his game is being smart without the puck in all zones of the rink, scoring goals and creating chances.
He added that type of style fits right in to what the coaching staff at Minnesota-Duluth is preaching.
“The type of style of hockey played here at Duluth is similar to the type of game I play,” said Iaffalo. “Therefore, I knew I wanted to go here. Another factor that made my decision was the relationship with the coaching staff, throughout the whole process.”
It has been a process that has seen Iaffalo go from the Buffalo Regals to the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.
While with the Force, Iaffalo posted 43 points; 20 goals and 23 assists; in 50 games. That same season, he sat out close to 20 percent.
“The next level is always going to be a tough adjustment, but being prepared for it makes a huge difference,” he explained. “The time you receive off the ice is just as important as on the ice. Understanding to prepare mentally and the extra time in the workout room can have a huge impact on your game.”
His game is something that could translate to the next level. He understands what he needs to work on, and that, if he can stay healthy and put in the time and effort, the sky is the limit.
“In order to get to the next level, I have to gain more strength on and off the ice,” he explained. “The more strength I can receive, the better chance I will get. The off-season is a huge part of improving my game and I am always determined to take advantage of it. Also, being more positive with some of the assets of my game will help out with the mental side of hockey.”
Hockey is something that runs in the Iafallo family, as his younger sister, Julianna, has committed to Ohio State University. The senior at Nichols School in North Buffalo has used her big brother as a role model and Alex Iaffalo said he couldn’t be happier.
“We are all excited and proud that Juls will be continuing her hockey career at Ohio State,” he said. “I am very thrilled to see her playing Division I hockey, because she works really hard on, and off the off the ice, and deserves it. I’m sure our parents are happy watching their kids play Division I hockey after all the hours they put in us.”
Playing smart and keeping up with the rigors of college is something he told his sister to watch out for. “I have told my sister to just play her game and keep working hard,” said Iaffalo.
“College hockey is the next level and you have to prepare, mentally and physically, in order to have success. I also told her to always be confident when playing and be positive, on and off the ice. It’s a tough schedule, so you have to be ready to work hard, every single day, as well as get all of the schoolwork done, because I know she will hear ‘get your homework done’ from our mother.”