December 24, 2012

From NEHJ: Pride of the Yellow Jackets

By Allen Lessels

Senior Adam Pleskach is approaching his 100th career point at the D-1 level for AIC. (Photo: Richard Orr Sports)

AIC coach Gary Wright addressed the subject a bit, well, delicately.

“There’s no question he fell through the cracks,” Wright said of the recruiting of his senior standout, Adam Pleskach. “He’s not necessarily a classic skater. He’s not flashy. It’s not a classic-looking stride.”

Pleskach cuts right to the chase.

“I’m a very ugly skater,” he said. “I don’t really know how to describe it. I’m very choppy and straight-legged, I guess you’d call it. I get a lot of ‘Learn how to skate, Pleskach,’ comments. That’s usually before I score a goal.”

Pleskach, part of a solid senior group with high hopes for this season, has done a lot of goal scoring and point collecting through his AIC career.

And don’t be getting the wrong idea from Wright.

Whether he has a classic style or not, he’s a huge fan of Pleskach and raves about the contributions he has made from the day he arrived from the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

“He’s an extremely effective player,” Wright (Cornwall, Conn.) said. “He just epitomizes hustle. He’s one of those guys if he’s caught up on the forecheck, he’s still getting back on the backcheck. If you’re the opponent, you better keep your feet moving. He’ll surprise guys by catching them from behind. He has that kind of determination and there’s no quit in him, which is one of the things that separate him from other players. If a puck is dumped into the corner and the other guy has a five-foot head start on him, often he’ll get to that puck first, and he’s more than willing to take a hit to make a play.”

The point scoring separates him, too.

Pleskach has paced the team in scoring from his first days in town. At Thanksgiving, he was closing in on 100 points for his career, which would make him only the second Yellow Jacket to hit the century mark in its Division 1 days. Guillaume Caron, who finished his career in 2004, was the first and finished with 52-56-108 totals.

The senior class also features goalie Ben Meisner, defensemen Jeff Ceccacci and Chris Markiewicz and forwards Steve Mele and Richard Leitner. Several of them have been major factors on the team since the first games of their freshmen years. Ceccacci and Markiewicz were paired together and on the ice for the drop of the puck in the first collegiate game they played at Union on Oct. 23, 2009.

“They’re rocks for us back there,” Pleskach said. “They are go-to guys in any situation.”

The two are usually paired with others these days. “They are our two top defensemen,” Wright said. “Jeff runs the first power play and Chris runs the second. Both get a ton of ice time and are really two key players for us.”

Meisner will likely mark his 100th game in goal not long after New Year’s.

“He’s one of our top-conditioned players and he’s a real student of the game,” Wright said. “He’s got great athleticism and he’s gotten more and more consistent as time goes on.”

Said Pleskach: “He’s a workhorse, that’s what he is. He’s kind of seen it all. He’s had his spectacular games and he’s had his games where we’ve left him out to dry many times. When they score against him, it’s not his fault.”

Pleskach and Meisner both made immediate impacts as freshmen.

Meisner saw his first action in the fourth game against Holy Cross that season and stopped 30 shots for a 3-0 shutout.

Pleskach, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder who grew up on the family farm in Beausejour, Manitoba, had a goal and an assist in that first game against Union and a pair of goals the next night at Rensselaer.

“I kind of wasn’t expecting much ice time and got thrown into the fire, and luckily it worked out for me,” Pleskach said. “That gave me a lot of confidence about trying to be a leader.”

Now Pleskach and Meisner and their fellow seniors are down to their last few months as Yellow Jackets.

There’s no getting around the fact that they’ve had some tough times on the ice and they’d like to turn that around some as they bring their careers to a close.

“We’ve obviously had a lot more downs than ups, but we’ve had some good ups with playoff wins and some non-conference wins,” Pleskach said. “But we’ve had some terrible downs. Probably all of us seniors have had our worst downs of our hockey careers that we’ve had anywhere and we feel like it sort of brings us together in a funny way. We want to make up for all the bad things we’ve been through since we’ve been here.”

One of the ups came last year when, after finishing in the Atlantic Hockey cellar as freshmen and sophomores, they climbed out and were in front of Army and Sacred Heart.

The Yellow Jackets were 2-8-0 in non-conference games last year and were 3-2-1 in their first six against teams out of the league this year. The third win was a 2-1 decision at Quinnipiac they hope helps fuel them going forward.

“We’ve had too many quiet, depressing bus rides home,” Pleskach said. “That was a great ride home and a great feeling, especially beating a team that everyone watching college hockey would think Quinnipiac was going to walk all over AIC. I was talking to one of the other seniors about how it was a different feeling to be on the bus, and we can feel good about ourselves and the team and what we had accomplished.”

Pleskach, the skater with the less-than-classic skating style and a late recruit to AIC, can feel good about what he’s accomplished through his four years.

The right winger and economics major hopes to continue with hockey, and Wright said that Pleskach, with his size, strength, work ethic and production, has a chance to play professionally.

As for that skating style?

“I don’t know where it came from, but my brother skated the exact same way,” said Pleskach, who added with a laugh, “I feel bad for my parents. They paid money to put me through skating camp and it never really panned out. Well, I guess overall it panned out. But in camps they tried to teach me an entirely different style and I certainly gave it my best shot. But I still find my best way to get from Point A to Point B is with what I have.”

It’s worked well so far.

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal