Saturday, March 12, 2011

Privitera back on offensive for 'Jacks

By Christopher Heimerman

Alexx Privitera is quite familiar with the bittersweet adage “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

The offensive-minded defenseman started his second United States Hockey League season hotter than a two-dollar pistol, amassing 16 points in as many games for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

“At the beginning of the season,” Privitera says, “it was like every game was two seconds long and nothing ever went wrong.”

But recently the sands of time went from a gush to a trickle. He went six games without a point and the team posted a 3-5-1 record in the month of February.

“When I hit the wall for a couple of weeks,” Privitera says, “time couldn’t go slower.”

But “Priv” leaned heavily on his assistant coach, Dave Noel-Bernier. The two pored over film for hours at a time.

“Bernie’s been there for me nonstop over the last two months and we’ve developed a great relationship,” Privitera says. “He tells me not to worry about points as long as I keep doing what I need to do offensively and defensively. Scouts see everything. It’s not just about the points.”

Privitera’s confidence has visibly surged over his past few outings, including a 5-2 win in Chicago Saturday night in which he had a goal and an assist.

“Now that I’ve picked it up, time’s flying again,” he says with a big grin.

In his sophomore season in the premier junior league in the United States, the 5-foot-9, 18-year-old Old Tappan, N.J., native currently is tied for second among USHL defensemen with 28 points. His 10 goals are tied for the lead league among blueliners.

He’s quick to point to his former youth hockey organization, the North Jersey Avalanche, for having him prepared for the rigors of the USHL.

“My coach, John Picinic, knows what it takes to play in a league as competitive as the USHL, and he did everything he could to prepare me,” Privitera says. “I can’t thank him enough.”

Privitera also learned how to deal with adversity in his rookie season, notching just six points in 34 games as a member of Team USA’s Under-17 squad – not to mention he had to make the tough decision to leave the program. But he’s pleased to have found out his foresight is 20/20.

“It was not easy to leave, but now I couldn’t be happier,” Privitera says. “The guys here, we’re as tight as I could imagine a team being. That’s the players, the front office, coaches, everyone involved.”

Speak of the devil

Privitera’s former program comes to town this weekend for a pair of games and fourth place in the Eastern Conference hangs in the balance. Team USA has a two-point lead over the Jacks for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Clark Cup Playoffs, so Privitera regaining his rhythm couldn’t have happened at a better time.

“I feel dialed in. We all do, we’re very confident,” Privitera says. “We feel it; we need to win both games.”

The Jacks are 1-0-1 against the U-17s, who Privitera says might be even better than the U-18s he skated with a year ago.

“I actually kind of think the U-17 team is more talented than the U-18 team, but they play a different style,” Privitera says. “They all like to control the puck and move it, whereas the U-18s like to dump and chase.”

The Jacks have eight more home games and four away, including one more tilt with the U-17s on Saturday, March 27.

“It’s all about winning at home to play at home,” Privitera says, “and it’s time to make this place the toughest barn in the league to play in.”

The outlook

Privitera firmly believes the Jacks can and will make a deep run in the playoffs, especially given the squad’s intangibles.

“We’ve got 20 leaders on this team,” he says. “Everyone feels like they can talk to everyone. It’s a rare thing.”

While he doesn’t wear a letter for the Jacks, he walks the walk. He’s waits at the Zamboni entrance before every game, anxious to rile up his teammates one at a time as they first enter the ice. Privitera’s numbers are glaring and he is ranked 197th among North American skaters on the National Hockey League Central Scouting mid-term rankings. Thanks to his qualities both tangible and intangible, he’s bound for Boston University this fall.

“I can’t wait to see where my career goes, but first things first, we all want to bring a title to Muskegon,” Privitera says.

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