Brothers on and off the ice, the Del Gaizos are eager to get to work By Liam Flaherty

Photos by Collegian Photo Editor Caroline O'Connor.

A year ago, brothers and longtime teammates Anthony and Marc Del Gaizo were focused on the daily grind of the United States Hockey League and their locker room in Muskegon, Michigan.

After taking the league by storm in their respective positions at forward and defense however, the brothers that grew up together in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, decided to remain together.

For Anthony, named 2018 USHL Player of the Year, and Marc, who led the league in goals as a defenseman, the chance to share the ice again — this time with the Massachusetts hockey team — is surreal.

“It’s a special experience,” Anthony, 20, said. “I think our goal growing up was to always play college hockey and now it’s the NHL, but you have to take it one step at a time. Growing up, the USHL was like the greatest thing ever and then once you make it it’s like, ‘Alright, the next step is college,’ and now that we’re here we just have to take it to another level.”

“It’s definitely special,” Marc agreed. “The culture has been changing since ‘NewMass’ and Carvel. We’re working hard, really hard, and our practices are the same as games. We come to the rink with the mindset that we’re going to get better and everything’s really professional.”

Anthony III, a third generation Del Gaizo with a five-foot-ten, 200-pound frame, adds an explosive presence to the UMass forwards that are focused on strength and out mustering their opponents.

As an 18-year-old defenseman, Marc provides an unsuspecting offensive prowess filled with skill and finesse that will bolster the Minutemen on their already offensive-minded back end.

"It's definitely special. The culture has been changing since 'NewMass' and Carvel. We're working hard, really hard, and our practices are the same as the games. We come to the rink with the mindset that we're going to get better and everything's really professional." - Marc Del Gaizo

Although the pair of highly-touted freshman skaters join the refined UMass squad in the Hockey East Association together, their simultaneous journeys to Amherst are similar, but oddly unique.

In hopes of one day following in the footsteps of their father, Anthony II, who played college hockey at Merrimack, the duo attended separate high schools in their development as youth.

In 2014-15, the brothers began playing for the New Jersey Rockets of the 16U, Tier 1 Eastern Hockey League. Anthony played for his high school team at the same time, but Marc did not.

After three seasons of splitting time and focusing on a pair of separate teams, Anthony hit a rough patch in his progress and decided to take his talents to the Rockets full-time in 2015.

Later that season, the brothers attended several USA Hockey National Player Development Camps, which resulted in Marc being drafted 122nd by Muskegon in the USHL Futures Draft.

On the heels of 39 points in 22 games in his first season solely committed to playing with the Rockets, Anthony quickly followed his younger brother’s lead and made the jump to Muskegon.

During the summer of 2016 however, before Marc could even play a single full season on the Lumberjacks’ roster, the developing defenseman made a commitment to join UMass in 2018.

Anthony did not have to wait very long after his brother to encounter an eerily similar situation.

After the forward jumped out to a hot start in his first full season playing in Muskegon, the Minutemen called on the Del Gaizos once again, and Anthony committed in November 2016.

With collegiate commitments out of the way, both brothers began to flourish in Muskegon.

After securing 23 points in 58 games in 2016-17, Marc blossomed in his second season in the USHL, collecting 38 points in 59 games and leading USHL defensemen in goals with 12.

“Just confidence,” Marc said of his breakout campaign. “This whole game is having confidence in yourself and that you can believe in yourself to do it. We had a special group in Muskegon last year. We had an early exit, but all the credit goes to the guys that were playing around me.”

Anthony saw a severe uptick in his production as his time with the Lumberjacks increased as well. In ‘16-17, he scored 11 goals. A year later, his 40 goals and 72 points led the entire league.

“I worked really hard that summer,” Anthony said. “I knew who my line mates were going to be coming in and we jelled right away. [Nearly] every kid I played with was drafted too, so that helped. They really helped me get to where I am today, and it was just a great, all-around effort.”

Among the talented crop of skaters that played with the brothers throughout their seasons of USHL action were Bobby Kaiser and Ty Farmer, two of UMass’ eight incoming freshmen.

“It’s a great friendship there,” Anthony said. “We’re really close as is, so it’s been awesome.”

Anthony also emphasized the impact that UMass’ commitment had on him as a young skater.

“That’s what the special part about this school was for me,” he added. “[The staff] committed to me before I had all of those points. I trust this organization so much and am really buying into what they offer because they kind of predicted my future and saw potential before I even saw it.”

Regardless of their paths to the program, UMass head coach Greg Carvel is ecstatic for the duo to join the “NewMass” movement and believes they will bolster the Minutemen on both ends of the ice.

According to Carvel, “NewMass” is a firm mindset on and off the ice. With a long history of hard work and always striving to improve, the brothers should fit in seamlessly with the core agenda.

"That's what the special part about the school was for me. [The staff] committed to me before I had all of those points. I trust this organization so much and am really buying into what they offer because they kind of predicted my future and saw potential before I even saw it." - Anthony Del Gaizo

“I think what set the Del Gaizos apart from a lot of kids in that league is their compete level,” he said. “They’re real gamers. I think you’ll see Anthony — he’s the kind of kid you don’t want to play against. He’s similar to [Ferraro]. He’s going to outwill you, just maybe a little bit dirtier.”

“Marc just finds ways to make plays and really gets things done,” Carvel added. “They haven't knocked any socks off in practice, but we know they are gamers as opposed to practice players.”

In their development as up-and-coming contenders in Hockey East play, the Del Gaizos will be able to grow under the leadership of captains Niko Hildenbrand, Cale Makar and Mario Ferraro.

For Marc, playing alongside Makar, the highest draft pick in the history of the program, and Ferraro, who set a UMass record in points as a freshman defenseman, is a major opportunity.

“Cale and Mario are our leaders, along with Niko,” Marc said. “They help us out a lot, we have four freshman defensemen this year, so they've really been helping us out before the season. They’re going to play a big role this year, so as freshmen we’re definitely looking up to them.”

Aside from the leadership of Hildenbrand, Anthony will also look to the presence of sophomore skater John Leonard in the offensive zone, who led the Minutemen in points last season with 28.

“[Anthony] is a real special player,” Leonard said. “He had a really successful year in the USHL and he’s going to be a good player for us this year. We all expect a lot out of those guys. We were in the same boat last year. There were a lot of expectations out of us, so it’s no different.”

With a 6-1 exhibition victory over the Royal Military College of Canada in the rearview from Friday, UMass, and the Del Gaizos, are eager to make a statement as Hockey East contenders.

“The guys know what to do, we just have to stay in shape and be able to execute,” Anthony said. “RPI the first weekend is going to be a great test and Ohio State is going to be one of the best teams in the country, so that's going to be a huge weekend as well.”

“We’re all itching to get out there right now,” Marc said. “We’ve been here practicing for a month, so I guess you could say we’re getting sick of practice. We want to win some games.”

Liam Flaherty can be reached at lpflaherty@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @_LiamFlaherty.

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