Luc Fricchione will be just under an hour from his hometown and hockey stomping grounds when he moves on to his NCAA future next year. The ‘02 out of West Springfield has been a lifelong Springfield Pic and veteran of four different USPHL levels going back to 2016 with the organization playing out of the Olympia Ice Arena.
Starting this fall, he’ll be just up I-90 at Worcester State University, always close enough for a quick visit to the home front and his friends with the Pics.
“The Pics do a good job of moving players up each level as we have many kids on the Premier team that started out at USPHL 15U and 16U,” said Fricchione. “I’ve gotten to play at every level they’ve had, including the youth program, and there’s some of the best coaching around at every level.”
Next up, he’ll get one of the NCAA’s best coaches when he joins the Lancers. There, he’ll be working under Head Coach Bob Deraney, a veteran of four decades as a coach at the men’s and women’s Division I and III levels going back to the 1989-1990 season.
“I started talking to Worcester right before the Christmas break, and toured the campus soon after. They said they liked my offensive mindset to jump up in the play and control the puck and make plays,” added Fricchione, who has scored 49 points in 84 career regular season Premier games, including 30 points in 40 games.
“I already knew a couple former Pics players on Worcester State who all love it there, and I know they have a program that keeps getting better every year,” said Fricchione. “I love how they run an offensive style, have all five guys moving around and making plays in the offensive zone, and are a very skilled, hard-working team.”
It’s also a campus where Fricchione knows that he’ll be able to truly grow as a person as well as an athlete.
“Most likely I’ll be going into business and/or communications. A lot of the players have the same major so hopefully I can have some classes with them, too,” added Fricchione. “I really loved the campus and the school atmosphere. There were people walking around everywhere and there were a lot of things to do around the school and in the city. There’s a lot of new updated buildings including a new gym and athletic center and all the buildings were close to each other.
“I got the sense that people enjoyed being there and it was a fun place to be,” said Fricchoine. “I got the tour with, and met, a lot of the players. I could tell it was a great group that all love playing hockey and living there. The Worcester Ice Center is a great facility that I loved playing at growing up. Also, the fact that the Railers ECHL team practices there is awesome, and will be great to be around those guys.”
There’s so much to look forward to, and also much to look back on. So much of his life revolved around the Red, White and Blue worn around the Olympia. He’ll be a Pic for life, even when he’s a Lancer.
“I think the Pics are a great organization to play for. You look back at some of the names that have played here and there’s so many NHL players and draft picks and such a great history,” said Fricchione. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have coaches like Vern Smith, Tom O’Connor, Rob Bonneau, Barry Almeida, and T.J. Syner who all played in the NHL or AHL, and John and Anthony Sarno who both played pro hockey and continue to build top-end U16 teams every year.
“Also my dad, Chuck Blood, and the late George Rettew, who all coached under the legendary Gary Dineen and have won more championships than I can count and have sent countless players to college and pro hockey,” he added. “All these coaches have helped me tremendously into becoming the player that I am today, and any kid would be lucky to be able to have this kind of high end coaching and development.”
The Sarno brothers, who won back-to-back USPHL 16U American Division Championships in 2020 and 2021, had a particular impact on Fricchione. There’s “playing up” when your age is younger than the level you’re playing – and then there’s the “playing up” that Fricchione experienced .
“The Pics definitely helped my development over the years. I had John and Anthony Sarno coach me for three years on the U16 level and one year for Elite. I had an older brother already playing for the Sarnos so they let me practice and play some games with them when I was just 13,” he said. “For the next couple years, the Sarnos knew I was an offensive defenseman so they let me jump up in the play and control the puck. They helped me learn the right times to jump up in the play and also the times to not fly the zone and make sure I take care of my D-zone first.
“I got to be a leader and play in all situations for U16 and Elite and it helped my confidence and puck skills a lot. They also helped me with adversity when I got hurt and missed most of my last U16 season, then the next year when the Elite finals were cancelled last minute due to COVID-19, and then when we played just one league game the following season due to Covid lockdowns.”
He wonders what might have been, as all the COVID times encapsulated key years when he might have gotten more Tier-2 attention.
“There were a lot of hard times in missing out on a good amount of three key years for Tier-2 drafts but my coaches helped me keep pushing through,” said Fricchione. “Lastly, Premier Coach [Rob] Bonneau did a good job of working on my defensive side of the game and my compete level. He always made sure I was one of the hardest workers and also helped me learn how to shut down the other team’s top players. Bonneau also made me a leader and played me in every situation, so that has helped out my overall game to prepare me for college hockey.”
With his 49 points in 84 career games, Fricchione is second all-time among Pics defensemen in the USPHL Premier (since 2017-18). He wouldn’t have it any other way than cutting his pre-college teeth in the Premier Conference.
“I think the USPHL Premier is great for college advancement and development. [On] every team I play against, the top guys I’m matching up with are all getting recruited or have been recruited by NCAA Division III,” said Fricchione. “You see on the league Instagram and website almost every couple of days about a new player committing to a school, so it’s great to see so many guys getting to advance to college hockey. Also, it’s cool to go into a game knowing I’m going against guys I’m going to be playing with or against in the next couple years for college hockey.”
The next level will be a very full one, as he balances being a full-time student with giving his very best at a higher level of play. Confident in his game going into the USPHL Playoffs next weekend, he’s still aware of parts of his game he wants to sharpen over his remaining league games and during the off-season.
“The biggest thing I’m going to work on the rest of the year and this summer is my foot speed. Being a defenseman and now going against players one to four years older you can never be fast enough,” he said. “Having that extra half-second when going back to retrieve pucks or walking the blue line for a shot makes a huge difference, so creating a little more time and separation for myself will be a big thing I focus on so I can make plays and get shots through from a point.”
The USPHL congratulates Luc Fricchione, his family, the Springfield Pics and Worcester State University for his commitment.