Geary takes starring role in his professional debut
His debut as a professional hockey player was certainly one to remember.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Florida, Wellesley’s Josh Geary laced up his skates for the Florida Everblades, the defending ECHL champion, assisted on his team’s first goal, and netted the tying goal in a 5-3 loss to the Evansville Icemen.
And then, with his parents, Thomas and Charlene , among the 6,072 in attendance Feb. 23 at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla., the 22-year-old Geary was named the game’s First Star.
Not a bad night for Geary, a senior at St. Michael’s College who recorded career highs in goals (16) and points (24) this season for the Purple Knights before signing a five-game amateur contract with the Everblades
“It was an amazing experience,” said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound winger, a semifinalist for the Joe Concannon Award, presented annually to the best American-born Division 2-3 ice hockey player in New England.
“I’ve dreamed of playing professional hockey since I was a little kid and right now the invitation is open for my returning there next season.”
Geary had hoped to finish the season with Florida, but was unsure he could combine professional hockey and complete his studies (accounting major with a minor in business/finance) and still graduate on time in May.
He returned to St. Michael’s the first week of March after scoring his memorable goal and adding two assists.
“Josh did a great job for us,” said Everblades coach Greg Poss , who also utilized Geary on the penalty kill. “He’s a fast skater, an intelligent player, and he came to us well conditioned. He has the ability to drive wide on the defense and force them to make mistakes.’’
“When he combines that speed and physicality he fits the pro level very well, and he’s one of just a few Division 3 college players I’ve seen in our league.’’
That scenario’s exactly what St. Michael’s head coach Damian DiGiulian envisioned when he started making calls to the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League) on Geary’s behalf. When he told Poss about Geary’s talents, the Everblades coach asked DiGiulian to stop dialing any more coaches.
“Josh had an awesome season, he was an incredible leader and he was our go-to guy in just about every situation,’’ said DiGiulian, who 20 years ago played for the East Coast Hockey League’s Louisville Icehawks.
“He’s one of those college players whose skills translate even better to the pros.’’
Geary, who compiled 67 points in 97 career games at St. Michael’s, was a first-team Northeast-10 Conference selection his final season.
“It was a pretty quick turnaround,’’ Geary said of his Southern swing. “I found out on a Wednesday that I was going to Florida, arranged for a week off with my professors, arrived on Friday, and had a Saturday-morning skate before my first game.
“It was a lot different than walking out of our rink [in South Burlington, Vt.) into a snowstorm and 20-degree weather. And the Everblades fans are great. The biggest crowds I ever played before in college were perhaps two or three thousand at Utica.
“Coach Poss said he would like me to sign this summer for next year and I’m looking forward to another opportunity.’’
Florida, one of 23 teams in the 25-year-old league, is an affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Geary was the Bay State Conference MVP his senior season at Wellesley High before prepping one year at Phillips Andover.
Belanger on elite squad
Acton’s Elizabeth Belanger , a freshman guard on the University of New Hampshire women’s basketball team, was named to the American East All-Conference Rookie squad.
In 28 games, 17 as a starter, the 5-foot-10 Belanger averaged 6.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 23.9 minutes per game. She recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 59-56 home win against Cornell on Nov. 25 and had career highs of 12 points against the University of Vermont Feb. 6 and Feb. 16 against Boston University, a game in which she also hit a career-best three 3-pointers. Belanger was a 1,000-point career scorer at Acton-Boxborough Regional, where she was a senior basketball and volleyball captain.
“Elizabeth was a great recruit who will get our program heading in the right direction,” said UNH coach M aureen Magarity . “Her scoring developed very quickly and she became an important player for us as the first person off the bench at the start of the season.
“She had a pretty consistent year and was always prepared to play, and that earned her the respect of our veteran players. She’s coachable and a great teammate.’’
to fete inductees
Tickets are available for the Concord-Carlisle Athletics Hall of Fame banquet and awards ceremony to be held May 4 at the Elks Club in Maynard. The inductees are retired head coaches Jack Murray (soccer) and Al Robichaud (football), and eight former athletes: Hugh Kilmartin (class of 1964), Billy Moszka (’80), Paul Paglia (’82), Sheila Watts (’83), Nick Boynton (’87), Daryl Dimare (’97), Megan Moran-Gates (’99), and Jeff Critchlow (’99).
For information, contact cochairman Brent Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-922-8791.
Here and there
Johnson & Wales University hockey standout Jason Pietraskiak of Shrewsbury has signed with the Augusta Riverhawks of the Southern Professional Hockey League.