Thursday, December 06, 2012

Drake Caggiula turning heads at North Dakota

UND freshman forward Drake Caggiula (Pickering, Ontario) is proving to be a very nice pickup for the University of North Dakota. Caggiula is a true freshman and came to UND from the Stouffville Spirit of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Through 14 games of the season, it would appear that Caggiula’s arrival on campus is turning out to be a very positive event.
While being listed at 5’10” 174 pounds on the roster, Caggiula plays as if he was bigger framed player. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him in street clothes, Caggiula has a physical aspect to his game and the freshman has been known to dish out big body checks; leaving the fans in awe.  Caggiula is also a very good skater, that can get down the ice very quickly and sees the ice very well.
After being held off of the score sheet three games in a row, the crafty forward has scored six points in his last seven games.

So far on the season, Caggiula has scored (5g-3a--8pts) in 14 games. 
It usually takes time to make the adjustment from junior hockey to Division I college hockey; Caggiula seems to be making the transition seamlessly.  Last weekend, UND traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado to play the Colorado College Tigers. UND split (3-5 L – 3-2 O.T. W) their weekend series with the Tigers and UND scored 6 goals on the weekend – Caggiula scored three of those six goals, including the game winning goal in overtime of Saturday night’s game.
This is what Caggiula had to say about making the transition from junior hockey to college hockey.
“I am not exactly sure,” Caggiula said. “Defiantly I think I am feeling more comfortable making plays that I would’ve made last year in juniors. Just being more confident in myself – I talked to my dad back home and he just said be confident in yourself – be confident in the plays that you can make – do your think and don’t be scared. Tried some things and they’re starting to work out for me.”
For most of the season, Caggiula has been playing on a forward line with the highly regarded Rocco Grimaldi and the two have had developed a chemistry that has made it tough for UND head coach Dave Hakstol to break up the two.
This is what Caggiula has to say about playing on the same line as Rocco Grimaldi.

Eric Classen/UND Athletics
“We got a lot of chemistry on and off the ice,” Caggiula said.” We have been hanging out quite a bit off of the ice which transfers very well on ice. Playing multi weekends together is defiantly key. We’ve built a lot of chemistry – were starting to know each – where we’re going to be – where we want them  to be – certain habits that we both have.  So definitely, playing with someone for that long creates a lot of experience.  I guess chemistry once again.”
If you look at the roster of UND over the last eight seasons, there have not been a lot of players at UND that have come from the OJHL. The only other player that I can remember during the tenure of Dave Hakstol former goalie Anthony Grieco who played for Wellington Dukes during the 2005-06 season.
Caggiula was asked about how he ended up playing at UND.
“Last year, I started out my season in the USHL playing for Des Moines,” Caggiula said. “I played in the preseason and the first four games of the year through that time UND started watching me and started recruiting me from there and then I returned back home to Stouffville Played my juniors there and UND said that was that was no problem – they said they’re still going to keep their eye on me. They followed me throughout the year and brought me in on a visit last year when they played C.C. at home and made my commitment on the visit.”
Caggiula is also making an impression on his head coach. This is what the head coach Dave Hakstol had to say about his freshman forward.
“That has a way of really building your confidence offensively,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s nice to see a young player that’s offensively gifted finally start to have some things bounce his way, have him start to make plays with confidence. That’s a natural part of his development. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see that grow in the right direction.”
Playing at UND is a unique experience. There are no professional sports teams in North Dakota and with the NHL not playing due to the lockout; UND hockey is currently the most watched hockey team in North America.
This is what Caggiula has to say about playing in the Ralph Englestad Arena.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Caggiula said. “Playing back home in juniors you only play in front of 500 fans maybe. Coming here – playing in front of 12,000 strong fans every weekend at home – its unbelievable experience. They’re the greatest fans in the world – were the most followed team in North America right now with the lockout. It’s just a great experience to come out there and to have the screaming fans. Going to school, people congratulate you on how you played. Just the support from everyone it’s just an unbelievable.”
While Caggiula is finishing up his first semester at UND, it appears that the freshman from Pickering, Ontario is a good fit for UND going forward.
Originally Posted at the Hockey Writers - Combine.
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