Niagara Gazette

Niagara U.

November 19, 2010

NU's Iuorio adds speed to his arsenal

NIAGARA FALLS — Squaring up to his own defenseman, hoping for a shot to deflect while expecting a stick planted squarely across his shoulders, seems to come natural to Giancarlo Iuorio.

The Niagara University sophomore has a knack for getting around the net on the team’s power play, and became a fixture on the second unit in his first season on Monteagle Ridge before getting a promotion to the top group this fall.

But to become the well-rounded player the Purple Eagles’ coaching staff wanted him to be, Iuorio spent the summer picking up the pace with a number of drills. When he suits up for a huge home weekend at Dwyer Arena that includes dates with RIT (tonight) and Air Force (Saturday), Iuorio’s newfound acceleration will be an integral part of his team’s game plan.

“I just focused on working on my speed,” Iuorio said. “Coach (Dave Burkholder) told me before the offseason that he wanted me to focus on my speed and I was hoping to be a big part of this team. It seems to be working.”

Indeed it does. Through 10 games, the 5-foot-11 forward has five goals and six assists for 11 points, exactly what he finished with after 26 games as a freshman.

Burkholder isn’t surprised by the rise in productivity. He and his assistants gave Iuorio a map to follow after his promising debut season and they were happy to find the winger eager to follow.

“We tell guys the biggest jump you can make is the off-season between your freshman and sophomore years. Giancarlo maxed out last summer, with the strides he made and the work he put in,” Burkholder said. “It was like night and day when we first saw him on the ice, we were like, ‘oh my God, he’s a new player.’ He took care of what he’s needed to take care of.”

And while that means more ice time during five-on-five play, Iuorio still makes his loudest noise on the power-play, where he’s currently tied for fifth in the nation with four goals. And it’s not just Iuorio who’s excelling, the Purple Eagles as a group are currently ranked 14th, hitting on 222 percent of their chances.

Burkholder said Iuorio’s early-season success isn’t just a flash in the pan.

“He’s so versatile. Besides his conditioning and work ethic, the kid can make plays,” Burkholder said. “He’s got a skillset that people are starting to take notice of. And he did it in juniors. His numbers were outstanding, he was one of the more offensive players coming out of Toronto. Usually that translates out, and we’re expecting that to continue.”

As for this weekend, there are plenty of historical connections with RIT and Air Force, although both meetings will be firsts in terms of Atlantic Hockey play. Burkholder attended RIT, where he led the Tigers to the 1983 Division III national championship. He’s never lost coaching against his alma mater, with a 6-0-2 mark against the Tigers. Meanwhile, Air Force was a founding member of College Hockey America before leaving after 2006.

As Burkholder said Thursday, the two programs have been the class of Atlantic Hockey in recent seasons, with each finishing in the top three the last three years. Air Force made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2009, winning a game in the latter, while RIT was the Cinderella story of last year’s event, shocking top-seeded Denver and New Hampshire in earning a trip to the Frozen Four.

“You have so much respect for both programs for what they’ve done in the last three seasons,” Burkholder said. “The noise and respect garnered for Atlantic Hockey has been incredible, and to finally we get them both on home ice, I don’t think we’ve had as big a weekend here at Dwyer, except maybe with the CHA Tournament when there was a bid on the line.”

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