Two Phantoms earn Div. I scholarships
Marc Menzione (Bentley) and Bret Larson (Army) signed letters of intent.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- The North American Hockey League and franchise-member Mahoning Valley Phantoms continue to develop players who become good enough to win college scholarships on the NCAA Division I level.
Last season, the NAHL, a junior developmental hockey league for players ages 16-20, produced 93 players who won scholarships, four of them from the Phantoms.
This season the Phantoms, in their third year of existence, have two more players -- Marc Menzione and Bret Larson -- who have signed Div. I letters-of-intent, giving the team nine players in three years who have won scholarships.
Menzione, 20, from Darien, Ill., a right wing and co-captain who is in his second season with the Phantoms, signed with Bentley College in Waltham, Mass., on a partial scholarship.
He will become the third Phantom to play for Bentley, joining freshman and leading scorer Anthony Canzoneri.
Menzione is tied for third in scoring in the NAHL with linemate Anthony Ciraulo with 63 points (23 goals and 40 assists in 46 games).
Menzione plans to start at Bentley next school year.
Larson may wait a year
Larson, meanwhile, who has played in 44 games and scored twice and added eight assists for 10 points, probably won't start at Army until the 2006-07 school year, although there is a possibility he could begin this year. He is planning to report in July of 2007.
Larson is the first Phantom to commit to a college scholarship one year in advance and plans to return to play for the Phantoms next season.
Bentley and Army are both members of the Atlantic Hockey League.
The previous Phantoms to sign college letters were Tyler Sims (Providence), Charley Fetzer (Miami of Ohio), and Joe Federoff (Robert Morris) two seasons ago, and Rob Rassey (Northeastern), Evan Case (Ferris State), Kyle Laughlin (Providence) and Canzoneri last season.
Menzione got better
Menzione, a graduate of Montini Catholic High, said he has improved as a player since coming here and has reached his first objective, which is to get a college scholarship.
"My ice awareness, knowing where to be on the ice, [has improved] and I am making better decisions," said Menzione. "This is a tough league. It is the highest you can play on the junior level. It makes you play better."
Menzione has been living with house parents Mark and Connie Hughes of Girard. He gets his room and board free, and the league pays the Hughes a modest sum in return. He has two roommates and works part-time for B.J. Alan Fireworks Co.
"They love hockey," Menzione said of the Hughes family. "They like having hockey players around. They have been housing Phantoms three years."
Larson more confident
Larson, a graduate of Marquette High, said he has gained more confidence since joining the Phantoms this season.
"I have become mentally confident on the ice and I am working hard to improve all my skills. The competition has helped me to get better," said Larson, who learned about Army hockey through a high school friend and classmate, Kurt Hoenke, who is a freshman on the Army hockey team.
Larson said he contacted the Army coach, who had been aware of his playing ability.
"[The Army coach] came here in November and January and then I made an official visit to West Point in January and they made me an offer," said Larson, who has been staying with Heather and Jon Herchick of Canfield.
Larson said he wants to major in pre-medicine at Army and then enter the Army aviation program for five years after graduation. He also is training to become a pilot.