When Victor Mancini arrived in Omaha this summer, the freshman defenseman came in ready to work and earn whatever playing time he could get. Mancini debuted against Lake Superior State and played in both games during the opening weekend. However, even he wasn’t expecting to have the opportunity that would follow this early in his career.
With Jonny Tychonick out with an injury, Mancini has spent the past four games playing alongside Brandon Scanlin on the Mavericks’ top defensive pairing averaging around 17 minutes of ice time each night.
“Definitely have been getting thrown into the fire, but I think it’s been a good thing for me,” Mancini said. “You don’t want to see one of your brothers out of the lineup obviously, but it’s given me an opportunity to prove what I can do and I came in here ready to play significant minutes.”
Although his game still has areas to clean up and improve on, Mancini has handled the adjustment to the college game relatively well through his first six games. He owns a +3 plus/minus, is third on the team with 10 blocked shots and beyond the stat sheet, he’s growing more comfortable by the game. He’s also shown his ability to join the rush and he’s proven he’s not afraid to fire pucks on the net when given an opportunity.
Although there are no points to show for it, Mancini’s hopeful they’ll start to come sooner rather than later. He said he always tries to keep it simple and play the game as it comes to him, but make no mistake, he enjoys chipping in when he can offensively.
“I consider myself a two-way defender, but I also have a lot of offensive upside to my game,” Mancini said. “It’s just another way I can help the team and it’s something I’ve continued to work on with the coaches here. Haven’t put in that first goal yet, but I think it’s coming and I’m not too worried about it as long as I keep playing my game.”
Another big part of the freshman defenseman’s game and his upside centers around his size. Standing at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, it’s a huge tool for Mancini to use, especially when you combine that size with his skating and puck-moving ability.
“Having that size is such a big advantage and being able to use it helps so much with playing my game, winning puck (battles) and defending guys,” Mancini. “Being relentless to play against is a big goal of my game and you’re playing against men now in college, so you have to use it to your advantage. The game is obviously more physical so you’ve got to step up your physicality as well.”
Mancini was a multi-sport athlete growing up, but really started to focus on hockey during his freshman year of high school. He also played baseball in his hometown of Saginaw, Mich. and continued to at Swan Valley High School, but he hasn’t looked back on that decision to focus on hockey since.
He was also no stranger to life away from Saginaw when he came to Omaha. Mancini played 33 games with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) last season and spent parts of the last two seasons playing for the Frolunda Hockey Club in Sweden. Mancini admits he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in today without that experience overseas.
“There’s a little bit of a transition (to college on and off the ice), but I think it’s been good so far and the people here have helped make it easier,” Mancini said. “Playing in Sweden was great from a life experience outside of hockey and also from a development standpoint it’s shaped me into the player I am today. At the end of the day it’s still the game of hockey but it’s more physical and faster at this level so you have to adjust a little bit.”
It’s still early in the season and Mancini’s career, but so far he said he feels right at home. It makes coming to the rink even easier when he plays on the No. 10 team in the country that has started the season 5-1-0.
With two games this weekend against Long Island University and conference play right around the corner, Mancini wants to do what he can to keep that strong start rolling. He also wants to make the most of his elevated opportunity.
“I just want to just keep playing my game,” Mancini said. “I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now and I feel like what I’m doing is contributing to the team and that team success is what it’s all about.”