SALEM — Salem State men’s hockey freshman forward Andrew Bucci is one of the fastest skaters in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference. He carves up the ice with strides that seem almost effortless.
But looks can be deceiving.
The Peabody native is all about effort, and his determination to become a more complete player has allowed Bucci to work his way into significant playing time for the Vikings as a top six forward. Head coach Bill O’Neill uses him on both the power play and shorthanded units.
“Coming into the year I really wanted to crack the lineup, and it was tough. Practices were my games; the only way I could get noticed by
coach (O’Neill) was to work hard so he had no doubt in his mind to play me,” Bucci said.
“I just try to bring an effort and do it for him and for the guys in the locker room. It’s team first. All I care about is winning.”
Bucci didn’t see action in Salem State’s first two games, but got his chance in Game 3 against Fitchburg State — and made the most of it, having not left the lineup since.
“It was a little weird. I wasn’t expecting the pace,” noted Bucci. “But once the nerves got out and the first shift was done with, it was just a regular hockey game to me.”
A 2010 Peabody High graduate who helped lead the Tanners to their first Division 2 North final as a senior, Bucci spent two years sharpening his game with the Boston Junior Bulldogs in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. In his second season there, he was 10th in the AJHL in scoring with 22 goals, 26 assists and 48 points in 42 games.
This winter, the 21-year-old freshman has had three goals and six assists through 13 games for Salem State. But it’s his reliability on special teams that makes him such a valuable piece on this year’s Vikings’ squad; one of Bucci’s three goals has come on the power play.