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Hockey player from qathet region receives second Hobey Baker nomination

Third-year player among nominees for top collegiate hockey award
RECEIVES HONOUR: Canisius College Golden Griffins' right winger Keaton Mastrodonato, who went through the Powell River minor hockey system, has been nominated a second time for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given to US college hockey’s most outstanding player. Mastrodonato also leads his team in scoring.

For the second consecutive year, former Powell River hockey product Keaton Mastrodonato has been nominated for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given to the top collegiate hockey player in the United States.

Mastrodonato, playing for Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, is in his junior year, playing for the Golden Griffins in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division one. He is in his third season with the team, leading the Griffins in scoring. Mastrodonato is attending Canisius on a full scholarship.

“It’s been going really well; our team’s success is what’s driving individual success,” said Mastrodonato. “We always talk about that with our group. It was an honour to be recognized for the Hobey Baker with a couple of my teammates and they are more than deserving of it as well, so I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

In terms of his own production this season, Mastrodonato has 10 goals and 12 assists in 20 games.

“That’s also credited to my teammates,” said Mastrodonato. “A lot of credit also goes to my two linemates who I’ve been playing with since the beginning of the season. They’ve really helped me develop into the player I am today. Our coaching staff is great and they’ve helped me progress from day one.

“In my freshman year, I started off a little bit slow, trying to adapt to the league in the first half of the season, then I really found a rhythm during the second half of the season, and I think I finished fourth in team scoring and achieved rookie of the year. Moving into my sophomore year, I was building that confidence. It’s so important to get that game experience under your belt.”

Mastrodonato said he is now getting top minutes and has been playing in big-time situations during games. He is characterized as a right wing power forward.

“I’m a bigger guy who can play multiple different roles,” said Mastrodonato. “I’m predominantly a power forward with a heavy shot. I play on our first line, I like being around the puck, using my shot, my speed and my size. I like to get to those areas where I can score and also be available for my teammates.”

Going into the season, Mastrodonato said he was a “pretty driven player” and has heavily relied upon goal setting to accomplish his objectives.

“It was a goal of mine to be among the top in scoring in my conference and lead my team in those categories,” said Mastrodonato. “Once you get there, it’s about maintaining it. You want to carry that through the whole season and be consistent.”

Mastrodonato said collegiate hockey attracts some of the best junior hockey players from around the continent and even from Europe.

“It’s the best of the best and when you get here the level of competition continues to rise,” he added. “There’s some great players and lots are drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL). It’s cool to play against those players and gauge where you are at.”

Eyes NHL career

Mastrodonato said his intention is to play in the NHL.

“That’s been a goal, and with my recent success, it’s become a little bit more front of mind, and it’s something that lives with me every day,” said Mastrodonato. “With aspirations for pro hockey, after my collegiate career, I’m hopefully going to be able to sign a professional contract. That’s the end goal.”

Mastrodonato said he had two years of draft eligibility when he was playing junior hockey and he went undrafted. Now, he can sign as a free agent when he’s finished with college.

In terms of next year, nothing is set in stone, but Mastrodonato can return to Canisius College for his fourth year. He said he’ll know what’s right when the opportunity arises.

“I’m mainly focusing on the present right now, being with Canisius hockey, and when the time comes, the conversations will be held with myself, my coaches and my family as well,” said Mastrodonato.

His team is among the top in its 11-team NCAA conference (Atlantic Hockey). He said the end goal is to be involved in the national championship.

“We’ve got some good opponents down the stretch and we’re looking to stay at the top of the standings, and hopefully come out on top,” said Mastrodonato.

He said that when he started as a freshman, the team was quite young and inexperienced. Moving into his sophomore season, the team was maturing. In a COVID-19-shortened season, the Golden Griffins managed to get to the championship game and lost to American International College.

“That’s always kind of in the back of our heads each and every day,” said Mastrodonato. “It’s part of our culture. We are always remembering that result from last year, while still managing to stay present and focused and be aware of our end goals, but also our next game.”

Prior to college, Mastrodonato played with Alberni Valley in the BC Hockey League, as an opportunity to secure a scholarship.

“I was fortunate enough in my 18-year-old season to achieve that and connect with Canisius College,” said Mastrodonato.

At the college he’s majoring in sports management and minoring in sports psychology.

In addition to working hard on the ice, Mastrodonato has been working hard in the classroom. He said his mother is a school teacher and the importance of success in learning has been instilled.

“It’s something I take as seriously as the on-ice component,” said Mastrodonato. “So far, I have been doing really well. The last two semesters, I’ve had a 4.0 grade point average, and a 3.92 overall in my collegiate career.

“At times it’s challenging balancing the athletics and the academics but I’ve figured that aspect out and I’ve been able to be successful in the academics as well. My days are long and busy.”

To register and cast a vote for Mastrodonato, go to Voting is open until March 6.