TRURO – Daniel Poliziani has had a hockey career that most who lace up their skates can only dream of.
A two-year stint in the OHL with the Guelph Storm is enough to make most feel at least a little envious. Still there is one thing the 20-year old native of Burlington, Ont., would love to change.
“I haven’t really been on a winning team since my last year in high school,” the five-foot-eight, 174-pound defenceman said. “I really want to go out with a bang and I’m going to try to do everything I can to win because I haven’t won in a while.”
That desire has been plain and clear since the day Poliziani first walked through the doors at RECC to meet his new team after Bearcats head coach and general manager Shawn Evans acquired him from the Storm on Aug. 15 for future considerations. Evans, who knows a hockey player when he sees one, noticed right away he got just what he was looking for in Poliziani.
“I knew we had the proper type of person to play for the Bearcats,” Evans said. “From the day Dan came to Truro you could see he was a leader, that he took his hockey seriously and he hasn’t disappointed from Day 1.”
Poliziani and the Bearcats host the Yarmouth Mariners (27-16-2-1) tonight at 7 p.m. at RECC before the Valley Wildcats (19-21-4-1) visit Sunday at 2 p.m. on fan appreciation day. Tickets will be just $5 for Sunday’s matinee.
The Bearcats (33-11-0-2) are looking to put some distance between themselves and the second-place Pictou County Crushers (31-10-0-5) at the top of the EastLink Division standings with just six games remaining in the regular season.
Poliziani has been everything the Bearcats expected and more. With 11 goals and 33 assists in 46 games in the Hubtown, he is fifth on the team in scoring and second among defencemen.
Evans said his numbers are due to his mobility on the ice.
“Dan sees the ice really well and he’s a really good skater,” Evans said. “His tight turns, his ability to keep the puck on his stick and his ability to avoid checkers is very impressive. Every coach has the rose-coloured glasses on sometimes but I don’t think there’s a better 200-foot defenceman in the league. We count on him in every situation and there hasn’t been too many times to this point that he’s disappointed.”
But where Poliziani has made a real impact for the Bearcats is in the leadership department. Although he’s always been a leader by example, never giving less than 100 per cent in any game or practice, he also began backing that up this season with some talk. Poliziani is constantly discussing plays with his teammates both on the bench and on the ice. It’s something he learned from older players who showed him the ropes of junior hockey.
“I’ve had guys exactly like that, telling me, ‘Remember we have to do this’ or ‘Let’s try this,’” he said. “It’s helped me to have those kind of guys growing up so I try to take that and help these guys out.”
It’s been working. The Bearcats have been one of the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s hottest clubs since the calendar changed to 2014, winning 14 of 16 games since the Christmas break.
“He’s a calming presence on the ice,” Evans said. “I can’t say enough good things about his character and his play.”
Poliziani credits his success to simply feeling comfortable in his surroundings in the Hubtown. After a pair of stressful seasons with the Storm – with whom he collected seven points in 57 games in 2011-12 and 13 in 59 games last season – where he was afraid of making a mistake, Poliziani has been able to loosen up in Truro and play his game, knowing his teammates will be there to back him up should things go awry.
“It comes with confidence,” Poliziani said. “If you go out there and you’re confident in yourself and your teammates, your game will come to you.”
Poliziani hopes it all adds to a winning formula in Truro with a Kent Cup league title and maybe, just maybe, a second consecutive Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian crown.
“I just put it to my mind to come here and be the best I can be and help us win,” he said. “We have the opportunity to do that so I’m going to do my best to help us.”
On Twitter: @tdnmatt