By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Ryen Pezzolla probably never gave much thought to playing roller hockey at a Division I university when he first started playing the sport when he was a 3-year-old.
But now, more than 15 years later, the grandson of The Observer’s general manager Robert Pezzolla is doing just that — and he’s so good he’s been named a finalist for the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association’s Division I Player of the Year.
Pezzolla plays roller hockey for Rutgers University.
The St. Peter’s Prep alum scored an astonishing 52 goals in just 17 games played this season, the most of anyone playing college roller hockey in the entire country. But the modest Pezzolla was hardly ready to take credit for his personal accomplishments. Instead, he was more interested in the team’s overall accomplishments.
“We’re 11-6-1 in the Eastern Conference,” Pezzolla said. “But when you play with a guy like (teammate) Jeff O’Connell, it’s a lot easier. We have a lot of great chemistry when we play together.”
Last year, when Pezzolla was a senior playing ice hockey for the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep, he says he got four offers to play ice hockey in college. He had a great senior season and even played an outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, something that was possible because of the NHL’s Outdoor Stadium Series that saw the Devils play the Rangers and the Rangers play the Islanders.
Despite this — and playing four years of ice hockey at the Prep — Pezzolla says his true love was for roller hockey.
“I love ice hockey and I miss it, but I’ve been playing roller hockey much longer than I played ice hockey,” he said. “I knew the coach at Rutgers. I really liked him. So really, it was a decision I had to make. I wanted to play roller over ice. “It’s a decision I don’t regret at all.” Of course, he says he does miss the game on ice.
“I do miss it, but I know I made the right decision to play roller,” Pezzolla said.
And, he says, playing roller hockey has actually offered him greater opportunities.
Soon, he’ll be playing in the Eastern Regionals in Pennsylvania, and the team that wins the tournament gets a cash incentive to be used by the team (individual players don’t make money).
“There’s $10,000 up for grabs,” he said.
He’ll also play in another tournament in Pennsylvania.
“The competition is great — and the sport is growing,” Pezzolla said. “In just a few years, there have been a lot more teams playing roller. I’m very happy to be playing the game and the sport.”
And with luck, fairly soon, he’ll be recognized as the country’s best player in that sport.