“Bucci has always been in the mix, but he’s moved himself into where he’s a top six forward for us,” O’Neill said. “He put his time in. He’s been able to make the adjustment (to the college game) very well for us. He’s got a lot of courage when he’s playing; he’s not afraid to
go to the net, give a check or take a check.”
Willingness to adapt
Courage is key for guys looking to make an impact while skating on the shorthanded unit. The forwards play at the top of the box and have to be mindful of both the opponent’s defensemen at the points and the forwards sneaking up the half-wall.
In three of Salem State’s mad-down situations during its Jan. 17 game against Plymouth State Bucci was the first forward to hop the boards for the penalty kill, and the Vikings didn’t allow a man-down goal when he was on the ice.
“It’s all hard work. He’s busting his butt to work hard and to get onto those special teams,” Salem State senior captain Matt Kenline said of Bucci. “On the penalty kill, we can use his speed; it’s a huge asset. He’s a smart player in getting pucks out (of the defensive zone) when we need him to.
“He’s fast; I haven’t seen speed like that in a while. He’s a freshman and getting a shot trying to make something happen on this team.”
Now as Bucci gets more and more opportunities to prove himself on the ice, he’s also acclimating himself to the speed and pace of the college game.
“Guys are a lot faster, a lot stronger and a lot bigger. It was hard to adapt, but I was confident going in because I work hard and am always trying to improve my game,” Bucci said. “Goalies are a lot bigger, too, so you really have to work hard to get space on the ice to get the puck.”