116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - He has become the center of attention.
One little position change has allowed Nick Saracino to become one of the United States Hockey League's better players. Actually, it was more significant than a little position change.
Saracino was a winger the first half of last season for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, and did all right, but got asked by head coach Mark Carlson to move to center. It's a spot the 19-year-old from St. Louis hadn't played since he was a kid.
“I was open to trying another position,” Saracino said. “Whatever helped the team and got me more playing time.”
The switch has worked wonders. Saracino enters the weekend among the USHL leaders in assists, points and plus-minus rating.
The recent Providence College commitment looks like he's the guy on this Riders club that will take that next step offensively in his second year, a la Jayson Megna last season.
“I've played pretty well,” Saracino said. “The last couple of games, I've needed to produce a little more. I think I should produce, I've always felt I should have, including last year. When you get into your second year, you just feel more comfortable. The game slows down for you. I just try to work hard every night, try to help the team win.”
“He's another great example of what coming back a second year can do for a player,” Carlson said, adding he thinks Saracino has a definite future in pro hockey.
Saracino was asked what the biggest adjustments are going from wing to center, other than the obvious.
“At center, you're skating a lot more,” he said. “You've got to be one of the hardest workers on the ice at all times. You've got to be responsible both in the offensive zone and the defensive zone. You've got more defensive responsibilities playing down low, battling in the corners. The wingers usually take care of the points. You've always got to be aware of who is on the ice and what you're doing out there.”
What he is doing out there has been pretty good to this point.
“You know, I just try to be a good two-way player,” Saracino said.
- Forward Riley Bourbonnais has returned to the RoughRiders after missing two weeks as part of a United States select team that won a bronze medal at the World Junior ‘A' Challenge in Canada. Bourbonnais has four goals and two assists in eight games for Cedar Rapids.
- Former Rider Nick Lappin ranks second in the USHL with 10 goals in 12 games.