Monday, 02.19.18 / 10:40 am CT
IceRays defenseman Matt Acciaioli has committed to play Division I NCAA hockey at Northern Michigan University of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. He will begin his college hockey career at the start of the 2018-19 season.
“NMU has a rich hockey tradition and the coaching staff was great every step of the way,” Acciaioli said. “I think my game will be a good fit with the type of game NMU likes to play. I love the idea of playing in my home state of Michigan in front of great fans. Very excited to be a part of the future success of NMU’s hockey program.”
Conversations had been in the works for weeks between Acciaioli, his family, and NMU coaches, who travelled this past weekend from one of the northernmost locations in college hockey to the southernmost location in junior hockey to watch the defenseman play. It didn’t take Acciaioli long to make the trip worthwhile. He opened the scoring in the Topeka series just 89 seconds into Friday night’s contest with a long-range shot from the left point.
After watching Acciaioli live and seeing first-hand that he lived up to his reputation, the WCHA powerhouse made him an offer. Following a conversation with his parents, the Rochester Hills, Michigan native was happy to accept. NMU currently sits in second place in its conference with a 20-11-3 record and is ranked 16th in the country. Though he is thrilled to be returning to his home state to play the game he loves, Acciaioli realizes how much he will miss playing in Corpus Christi.
“I can’t say enough about the unbelievable experience I’ve had in Corpus,” he said. “Starting with the front office who help us branch out in the community and make it possible to play. I owe a lot to my coaches and teammates who have helped me every day to learn and grow as a hockey player. The fan support is incredible, they make it enjoyable every night to suit up in an IceRays sweater. Looking forward to the last quarter of the season, I know we have the team to make a strong end of the year push and hopefully come out on top.”
The third-year blue-liner has played in 137 total career games in an IceRays uniform, and he is unquestionably one of the players who will be stepping up as a key leader for them in their playoff push. The 5’9, 175 pound defenseman has been a multi-purpose player throughout his career, particularly in his final season. He and Conor Yawney have been the go-to shutdown pair in late one-goal lead situations. He’s also led the team d-corps in scoring virtually all season, now with 26 points (4 goals and a team-high 22 assists) in 45 games and a team-leading +9 rating. His excellent vision and crisp puck-moving ability have also propelled him to a record-setting 39 career assists as an IceRay, which is highest among all defensemen in junior franchise history.
According to IceRays head coach Brad Flynn, what’s been even more important than Acciaioli’s offensive and defensive abilities has been his work ethic. “We’re extremely happy for Matt and his commitment to Northern Michigan,” Flynn said. “He is a great example of hard work, determination and sticking to the process. We wish Matt continued success in his career.”
The IceRays will return to action this Friday and Saturday at the American Bank Center, where they will host a team fighting for their playoff lives in the Amarillo Bulls. All weekend, the IceRays will be wearing specialty heart-themed jerseys in support of heart health and healthy living. They will be sold to the public at a live auction following Saturday night’s game at the bottom of Section 112. Proceeds will benefit the American Heart Association. Puck drop is set for 7:05 pm CT on Friday and 7:45 pm CT on Saturday. Both games will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com and on YouTube.