As the Buffalo Jr. Sabres prepare for the upcoming OJHL season in just over a week, the roster already needs to be shortened, as forward Rocky Gruttadauria has elected to join Niagara University, effective immediately.
The 20-year-old Rochester native was expected to suit up for his third season with the Jr. Sabres when they open their regular season on September 9. Instead, it was announced today that he has accepted an offer to play NCAA Division-I ice hockey at Niagara, located just 25 miles north of Buffalo.
According to a team press released, Gruttadauria said that he had spoken to Niagara coach Pat Oliveto at the end of last season about the possibility of joining the Purple Eagles.
When an incoming recruit was unable to make it, Niagara contacted Gruttadauria, and after a visit to the school, he accepted the offer.
“Being given the opportunity to play hockey at a NCAA Division I level for any school is an honor,” Gruttadauria said.
He added that his time spent with the Jr. Sabres was a crucial step, and that the OJHL is a “much better league than most people in the U.S. think it is.”
The forward appeared in 44 games last season, scoring 12 goals and 11 assists before adding a goal and four assists in eight playoff games.
During the 2010-11 season, his first with the Jr. Sabres, he had seven goals and eight assists in 47 games.
Jr. Sabres head coach Michael Peca said it is a proud moment to have a member of the team move on to another level, adding that Gruttadauria is very deserving of the opportunity.
“I know when Grant Ledyard had him last year he loved his work ethic and leadership,” Peca said, comparing Gruttadauria to Rocky.
“It just proves that it’s not always about how much skill you have, but how big your heart is that really matters.”