In men’s hockey, forward Kevin Salvucci has found his stride

Kevin Salvucci at practice in Kreitzberg arena.

As the Norwich University men’s ice hockey team heads into playoffs for the 2016-2017 postseason, many players have contributed to a fine season and had an impact on the team. Each class year has had players that have been key components to the Cadets’ impressive 21-1-3 record. But few on the Norwich roster have stood out to students, community members, and hockey fans as much as Kevin Salvucci.

Salvucci, 23, is a native of Plymouth, Mass., and a junior health science major. Salvucci has elevated his level of play each consecutive year at Norwich, playing a major role as a forward for the Cadets. With very impressive numbers in the statistics column from year to year, there is plenty of evidence of his improvement. That was made clear in last weekend’s playoff win against Castleton University, when Salvucci capped a stellar season with a hat trick in the NEHC semifinals, scoring three goals in a 5-2 victory.

“Every year has been special for me and this year we have been blessed to be on a great run so far, but I love a challenge and heading into these next couple of weeks we’re going to play some great hockey teams so things are going to get tough, but I’m looking forward to it.” Salvucci said.

He is set on bringing some hardware back to Northfield this year with his teammates. That effort began with the game against arch-rival Castleton in the NECH semi-finals and will now move on to the finals against New England College, which beat Babson in overtime in the other semi-final the same night. The two teams last met in 2006.

Before coming to Norwich, Salvucci had a great high school career, playing three years of hockey at college-prep powerhouse Tabor Academy where he was captain of the hockey team and also was a member of the golf team, as well as making honor roll all three years he attended.

Salvucci comes from a great lineage of athletes: his father Steve played for the Fort Wayne Komets and Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League; one cousin is former NHL player and American Hockey Hall of Famer Tony Amonte; and another is the NHL player Charlie Coyle of the Minnesota Wild.

“It definitely helps having a lot of guidance from my father and family throughout my journey with hockey so far. It can also be a little tough sometimes,” Salvucci said with a light laugh. “My old man could be a little tough on me sometimes but I know he only wants the best for me and wants me to succeed to the best of my ability. We have a great relationship and it helps to have a guy who knows what it takes to make a positive impact on a team.”

Salvucci has definitely taken his dad’s lessons to heart, collecting multiple awards during all three seasons. His coach credits Salvucci for both his hockey smarts and his character.

“Kevin is a great hockey player, as well as great kid on and off the ice,” said head coach of the men’s team, Mike McShane. “It’s been a pleasure coaching him the past three years. Kevin is a smart player and his work ethic and his speed are unquestionable day in and day out. We’ve been fortunate enough to be making a great run this season and we look forward to playoffs right around the corner, as well as Kevin and the rest of the team bringing our game to another level as we will need to work harder and be better every single day in our post-season run.”

As a freshman, Salvucci played in a remarkable 23 games, notching 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points. He also scored a goal and tallied three assists in wins over Saint Anselm and New England College in late November to be named ECAC East Rookie of the Week. Then he was named to the ECAC East All-Rookie Team, and set himself goals to improve the next year.

As a sophomore, Salvucci played in 27 games, notching 16 goals and 10 assists for 26 points. Very few players improve their points-per-game by a ratio of two, as Salvucci did, effectively doubling his contribution to the team over the course of one year.

“You know, I just had a really good year. At the time, I didn’t think I was playing very well, to be honest. The puck just kind of found its way into the net a bit more than my freshman year,” said Salvucci.

Not only did his statistics improve considerably, but Salvucci was there for the Men’s Hockey Team when it counted. Scoring no less than five game-winning-goals, an NCAA Division III record, it was rare to see an overtime play or a power play without Number 16 on the ice.

Salvucci approached this season a little differently because the team is more balanced and has had less injuries. “This year, I’m really trying to focus on playing my absolute best for the team. Last year, we had a lot of guys out for various reasons, and I had to step up to fill those holes,” said Salvucci. “This year it’s all about teamwork, and it’s great to have guys like William Pelletier back in the lineup.”

Going into the 2016-2017 playoffs, Salvucci has already topped his impressive statistics from his sophomore season, playing in a team-leading 25 games, and scoring 14 goals and 16 assists, for 30 points on the season. With more scorers and balance, the Cadets present a tough offensive challenge for their opponents in the playoffs.

A leader on skates, Salvucci is looking to expand his horizons to leadership wearing combat boots. The only men’s hockey player to participate in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets, Salvucci was recently sworn in to the United States Army, and is slated to commission in May of 2018, after graduation.

“I’m really looking forward to a career in the Army,” said Salvucci. “I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given to pursue a commission, and hopefully one day lead troops and defend our country.”

Whether Salvucci will be flying helicopters, leading an infantry unit, or heading up a column of tanks is yet to be seen. He will not know his branch until the fall of his senior year, right around when the hockey season starts. When asked about having to balance hockey and the Corps of Cadets, Salvucci responded: “It’s definitely difficult, I have times where my schedule overlaps and I have to cancel a meeting or a study session. Thankfully, the Corps is pretty understanding when it comes to athletics. I get asked this question a lot, how do I do both? Honestly, I love playing hockey, and that drive is what gets me up every morning to go stand at formation.”

Salvucci has been named a semi-finalist for the Joe Concannon award, awarded annually by the Gridiron club of Greater Boston. This award is given to the best Division-II or Division-III Men’s Ice Hockey player in the Northeast. This will be Salvucci’s first time as a contender for this prestigious award, which has been won the past two years by Babson College’s now-graduated goalie Jamie Murray.

For now, though, an NEHC title is what he’s aiming for, and then a chance to win it all in the Div. III Frozen Four.

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