When legendary head coach Red Berenson ascended to Nobleton Arena to watch the Villanova Knights and St. Michael's Buzzers in Ontario Junior Hockey League action just before the Christmas break, you knew the Michigan Wolverines were high on someone.
And they were!
The Wolverines have offered Knights' winger Phil Di Giuseppe a full ride starting next season to the University of Michigan and he has accepted their offer.
Di Giuseppe is in his second season with the Knights. He is a draft pick of the Niagara Ice Dogs in the sixth round, 107th overall, in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection draft.
He joined the Knights last season as one of two underage players. Last year Di Giuseppe accumulated 16 goals and 31 assists for 47 points in 56 games. This season he is third in team scoring with 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points in 36 games.
Villanova Knights' Associate General Manager Dana Baker feels that Di Giuseppe will be a good fit for Berenson and Michigan. "He is very coachable and more than willing to take advice from others," said Baker. "Phil is a very offensively gifted hockey player his speed and stick skills are second to none. He has made major improvements this year in his defensive play.
"It's a dream come true. From the moment I came to Villanova, the pathway I wanted to take for hockey changed. I wanted to be a college player, and my goal was to get a full scholarship to a D-1 school," said DiGiuseppe, when asked how it felt to get this acceptance from Michigan. "Receiving a scholarship from a school is something special but to a school like Michigan is something incredible. Michigan has one of the best, if not the best hockey program in college hockey."
DiGiuesppe was overwhelmed with the attention as several other schools were interested in the Knights' winger.” We visited Michigan over the holiday break," said DiGiuseppe, when asked why he chose Michigan. "From the moment I stepped into Michigan's arena I was blown away. I remember going to Michigan on a hockey team trip and watching a game. I never thought I would be back there for a visit. Everything from the rink, to the school buildings, to the coaching staff made my decision very clear. The coaching staff was very welcoming and made me feel really comfortable. Plain and simple, I loved it there."
And getting an opportunity to talk with Berenson also had an impression on talented winger. "I had the opportunity to talk with Coach Berenson; once when he came down to watch one of our games, and again when we went to visit Michigan”, said Di Giuseppe. “Even though he is a hockey legend, he made me feel comfortable when discussing the possibility of joining the program. It was an honour for my parents and I to meet Coach Berenson and his coaching staff.”
Di Giuseppe will join fellow Ontarians Lindsay Sparks and Brandon Burlon with the Wolverines next season.
The sky is the limit for the talented winger, who played his minor hockey with the Vaughan Kings. Maybe even a call to the NHL draft this season is in his future.
Di Giuseppe also had some kind words about the Knights' organization. "I have enjoyed every moment I have had with the Villanova Knights," added Di Giuseppe. "The Knights gave me something special. From day one they gave me the opportunity to prove myself and to show myself as a young player. From the coaches I've had, to the hockey staff, and the GM and owner to my teammates here at Villanova, all have played a key part in my junior hockey development, which has helped me land a scholarship."
The Villanova Knights would like to congratulate Phil on this scholarship and wish him the best of luck next season in Michigan.
With Di Giuseppe now committed to Michigan, the Knights now have three players who have accepted D-1 offers this season. Centre Matt Lorito will attend to Brown University next season while recently traded Nathaniel Domagala accepted an offer from Holy Cross while still with the Knights.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)