By Mike Stackhouse
Photo courtesy: Kelly Jacobson
For the second time already this season, a Flin Flon Bomber has used the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as a springboard to reach the NCAA.
2000 F Vincent Nardone (Rosemere PQ) has committed to the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks and expects to become a Freshman in the Fall of 2020.
Nardone was, originally, discovered at a tournament in his home province of Quebec, but a couple of schools have been keeping closer tabs on him this season in Flin Flon and one of those was Dave Noel-Bernier, a former Assistant Coach with the Detroit Red Wings, who’s now in a similar post with Nebraska-Omaha. “He never even talked to me when he saw me in Quebec,” says Nardone. “This year, after about 18 games, I got a phone call and he said that he’s been following me and interested. It was a really good phone call, actually, because he’s the first scout I have ever talked to who was French. So it was a really easy conversation and so nice to speak with him.”
Following the Bombers’ 3-2 win in Melfort on November 1st, Nardone took advantage of his team’s eight day break and flew down to Omaha. “It was an amazing place. I like big rinks and big cities. I grew up in Montreal and Omaha has a million people, so it’s a real good fit for me. I was very comfortable there.” Nardone has been focused on Business Degree even before he started talking to Nebraska-Omaha, but upon learning they have a very prestigious and well respected Business program made it even more of a natural fit.
Nardone was also courted by Northern Michigan and took a week after the visit to Nebraska to make a final decision, consulting with his family and other influential hockey figures.
Nardone has worked hard on becoming bigger, physically. “I was really scared before I came to Flin Flon. I made sure I gained weight over the summer because everyone has said I’m too small and I won’t go further than Junior because of my size. When Mike scouted me, he said I have good hockey sense but he’s building a contender for this year so I’m not likely going to play much beyond the third or fourth line. That grinded me and I wanted to be a regular in this league.”
“(Chrystopher) Collin told me that this is a physical league and hard. I remember my first game, I told Donavan (Houle-Villeneuve) that I don’t want to play. I was scared that I’d go out there and not be good enough. But, since my first game, I’ve gained confidence in myself and I think my coach is gaining confidence in me too and I seem to be getting more and more ice time every game.”
Nardone also jokes that when Mike Reagan was scouting in Quebec, he was searching for defensemen and wasn’t interested in forwards; but decided to take Nardone anyway in case some veterans don’t return. Interestingly, Collin was one of the veterans who almost didn’t come back.
“This is a really good league. You need to work hard every shift of every game. You have to have a good mentality to make great things happen. I really think players should play in the SJHL. I know my friends in Quebec think it’s good for us to play here. We get noticed (Nardone was also on the NHL Central Scouting Watch List) and I think part of the reason why the players get better is because in other leagues, there are some really good teams and some really bad teams and not many in between. In the SJHL, every team is good. You can’t take a night off or you will lose. Every game is competitive with good competition.”
Reagan, not shockingly, has rave reviews on his rookie forward. “Vinny brings as much energy into a room as he plays with. He’s a fun guy that loves the game. There is a lot of upside to Vinny’s game. The more he understands and works at structuring his game, the more dangerous he will be as a player. He’s had, at least, 15 schools contact us about him. He’s drawn a lot of attention and has handled it very well for a young guy. I’m really looking forward to watching his development and seeing what he becomes by the end of the season.”
Earlier this year, Caleb Moretz committed to RIT for next Fall. Last year, Collin committed to Bowling Green. The Bombers, under Reagan, have a strong track record when it comes to promoting players to the NCAA level.