Thursday, April 27, 2006

Letizia steps up early for IceHogs

By Reed Schreck

When rookie defenseman Mike Letizia joined the Rockford IceHogs just in time for the playoffs, he didn’t know what to expect.

Having played three games with the team, he now has figured out what he wants to happen.

“Hopefully, we can win (tonight) and then win the whole series at home Friday in front of our fans,” he said. “That would be nice for them.”

Game 4 is at 6:30 CDT tonight in Fort Wayne. Game 5 will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the MetroCentre. Rockford leads the best-of-seven United Hockey League quarterfinals 2-1.

Letizia, from Chicago, had a plus/minus of plus-6 going into Game 3, a 5-4 Komets victory on Tuesday. He collected his first professional goal that cut Fort Wayne’s lead at the time to 4-3.

“It didn’t do us justice in the end. We came out with a loss,” said Letizia, who notched two assists in the first two games of the series.

Rockford coach Steve Martinson figured he was getting a defenseman with multiple skills when he signed him to fill one of the two amateur slots for the postseason.

“He scored 13 goals in juniors (with the Plymouth Whalers), and it was my understanding he was a pretty heads-up, smart player,” he said. “When you get a lot of ice time, it usually means you’re good defensively. He’s used to playing a lot.

“I thought he’s been real smart. He’s moved the puck well. He’s been a big bonus.”

Letizia is pleased with his playing time, and with the way the team has accepted a newcomer.

“It’s been pretty good so far,” he said. “The guys are bigger, stronger, older.

“The guys on our team are pretty skilled, but I don’t know how they compare to the other teams in this league except for Fort Wayne.”

Martinson wants the whole team to play better defense tonight. He’s also anticipating an offensive breakout, at some point, from some of his scoring leaders.

“We’ve got two goals total from (Jason) Notermann, (Preston) Mizzi (played in Plymouth in 2001) and (Greg) Barber,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to stay that quiet for the whole series.

“We’ve got to get more production out of those guys.”

Staff writer Reed Schreck can be reached at 815-987-1381 or

(Photo is circa 2001)

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