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.”