Thorpe’s Cinicola enjoying hockey success
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 once completed it serves as a beautiful, almost majestic-like surface, for players to glide up and down the ice.
Just like the layers it takes to build the surface of an ice hockey rink, Jim Thorpe native Nik Cinicola has been building his hockey career layer by layer.
In an area where most kids are picking up baseball bats, basketballs and footballs, Cinicola took a different approach.
Instead, he picked up a hockey stick, and the results have been impressive.
The high school junior recently tried out for and accepted a contract to play for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Knights - a junior hockey team in the United States Premier Hockey League based out of Revolution Ice Centre in Pittston, and play in one of the most elite junior hockey leagues in the country.
“I have to give my dad a lot of credit for getting me interested in the sport,” said Cinicola. “He used to play travel hockey down in the Lehigh Valley and at the Keystone Games. So, I’ve been playing the sport consistently since I was four years old, and I just fell in love with it.
“Then, I would say in sixth or seventh grade, I started to realize I had some ability and if I worked hard, I could be a decent player and I’ve been traveling all over ever since. I’ve played on teams in Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia, New Jersey, York, pretty much all over. I want to thank both my parents for always taking me wherever I was playing.”
Cinicola brings that Jim Thorpe toughness and mentality to the game of hockey, where he has starred as a defenseman.
On a team ranging from 16-20 year-old players, Cinicola is one of the youngest players on the squad and was recently named a starter while being the youngest player in the Knights’ starting lineup.
Junior hockey, however, is a strong commitment and isn’t set up like traditional high school sports. It requires an extreme amount of discipline from its players, as there are two skate times per day where players must be on the ice for practice, along with time in the weight room.
“It’s definitely a commitment, but I love the sport and I’m hoping to go to college and play, and if I keep working at it with this same type of approach, I think that can happen,” said Cinicola. “I’ve been handling it all pretty well, keeping up with my classes online at school, and working hard at just getting better.
“I’m also kind of mixing in what I want to do in school with the team as well. I love graphic design, and I do some stuff for our social media page with the graphics, so that’s been a great learning experience as well.”
The Knights are already off to a great start this season, taking two games from last season’s national championship finalists - the Jersey Hitmen. The defensive side of the ice was a big reason for the Knights victories, which is something Cinicola takes pride in.
“I’ve just always loved playing defense, and it’s a part of the game that just came naturally to me. I like fighting for the puck, and I like trying to out-hustle the other player,” said Cinicola. “I’ve always loved learning and watching about the game, as well, and studying the game. I watch as much hockey as I can, pretty much anytime it’s on, and I think that has always helped me as a player.”