Posted on September 15, 2021 at 1:08 p.m.
When freezing a hockey rink, it takes about 8-10 layers of thin ice before the surface is playable. Each layer takes time to crystallize and develop, but when complete it serves as a beautiful, almost majestic surface for players to glide up and down on the ice.
Much like the layers it takes to build the surface of an ice hockey rink, Jim Thorpe native Nik Cinicola has built his hockey career layer by layer.
In an area where most kids pick up baseball bats, basketballs, and soccer balls, Cinicola has taken a different approach.
Instead, he picked up a hockey stick and the results were impressive.
The high school student recently tried and accepted a contract to play for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights – a United States Premier Hockey League junior hockey team based at the Revolution Ice Center in Pittston, and play at one of the most popular clubs. most elite junior hockey leagues in the country.
“I have to give my dad a lot of credit for getting interested in sports,” Cinicola said. “He played road hockey in the Lehigh Valley and at the Keystone Games. So, I’ve been playing this sport regularly since I was four, and I fell in love with it.
“Then I would say in sixth or seventh year, I started to realize that I had abilities and if I worked hard I could be a decent player and have traveled everywhere ever since. I’ve played on teams in Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, New Jersey, York, pretty much everywhere. I want to thank both of my parents for always taking me wherever I played.
Cinicola brings the tenacity and mentality of Jim Thorpe to hockey, where he played the role of defenseman.
In a squad of 16 to 20-year-olds, Cinicola is one of the youngest players on the squad and was recently named a starter while also being the youngest player in the Knights’ starting lineup.
Junior hockey, however, is a strong commitment and is not organized like traditional high school sports. It demands extreme discipline from its players, as there are two skating sessions per day where players have to be on the ice to train, as well as time in the weight room.
“It’s definitely a commitment, but I love the sport and I hope to go to college and play, and if I keep working with that same kind of approach I think it can happen,” said Cinicola. “I handled it all really well, took my online classes at school and worked hard to improve myself.
“I also kind of mix up what I want to do in school with the team. I love the graphics and do stuff for our social media page with the graphics, so it was a great learning experience as well.
The Knights have already had a great start to the season, winning two games against last season’s domestic championship finalists, the Jersey Hitmen. The defensive side of the ice was one of the main reasons for the Knights’ victories, something Cinicola is proud of.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing defense, and that’s a part of the game that came naturally to me. I like to fight for the puck and I like to try to beat the other player, ”said Cinicola. “I have always enjoyed learning and watching the game, as well as studying it. I watch as much hockey as I can, pretty much anytime, and I think it has always helped me as a player.