February 20, 2011

From NEHJ: At Gunnery, opposites attract

By Mike Zhe

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of New England Hockey Journal. Adam DeSanctis (photo: The Gunnery)

One is tall and rangy, with a penchant for jumping into the play offensively. The other is more at home in the defensive zone, and the discipline he dispenses is not confined to the rink.

Senior defensemen Craig Wyszomirski and Adam DeSanctis play the same position at The Gunnery, but they don’t share a whole lot in common beyond that. The former just burst onto the scene last season, while the latter is ingrained so deep in the school’s fabric that he was elected head prefect, the top student leadership position.

Together, they have a young Gunnery team off to an 11-4 start, even as they make decisions about their own diverging hockey futures. Their pasts and futures were and will be dissimilar, but they’re united in the present to make the Highlanders as good as they can be.

“Both boys can be excellent in their own way five years from now,” Gunnery coach Chris Baudo said. “Craig’s size obviously makes him more of a pro prospect, and Adam probably will be captaining a very successful Wesleyan team through the NESCAC.”

The 6-foot-4 Wyszomirski came to Gunnery, which is located in western Connecticut, from the successful New Jersey Hitmen junior program. He made an immediate impact, putting up 27 points from the blue line as the team went 26-5-3 and reached the quarterfinals of the New England tournament. In February, he was offered — an accepted — a scholarship to Providence College.

“I was going to go the junior route, but (assistant) coach (Craig) Badger saw me play at a Hitmen game and asked me to come up for a visit,” he said. “My mom said we should just see what it’s about. As soon as I stepped on campus, I loved every second of it.

“When I walked off the campus at Providence, I felt that same feeling I had on Gunnery’s campus. (Coach Tim Army) offered me a scholarship, and my jaw about hit the floor.”

His play captured the attention of NHL Central Scouting, which ranked him as a ‘B’-list prospect, a rating that denotes a potential selection between the third and fifth rounds of the upcoming NHL draft.

“Craig uses his size well,” DeSanctis said. “He’s probably a little more offensive than me. He coaches our power play at the point, gets a lot of one-timers through.”

On and off the ice, he’s enjoyed his abbreviated stay at The Gunnery. He attended Don Bosco (N.J.) High School before enrolling.

“He epitomizes the idea of flipping the switch,” said Baudo, who also serves as the school’s dean of students, “a complete gentleman with a sense of humor off of the ice and a warrior on the ice.” 

Like his friend and teammate, DeSanctis was also tabbed by Central Scouting, getting a ‘C’-list rating. But his comparative lack of size, combined with an academic focus and a desire to play immediately, pointed him to Division 3. He recently decided to attend Wesleyan in nearby Middletown.

“Adam is just so calm out there, a great leader,” Wyszomirski said. “He’s very quick, transition-wise. He can turn the puck up and skate. He’s one of our fastest guys.”

While Wyszomirski will take more offensive liberties, DeSanctis is all about defensive responsibilities and starting the rush, if not finishing it. He entered the season with a career plus-minus of plus-71.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a stay-at-home defenseman, but I’m not as offensive,” he said. “Just want to make the good first pass and let the forwards do what they can do.”

“Adam just might be the most underrated defenseman in New England,” Baudo said. “His reliability will translate to the college level nicely, and we know that we can put him in any situation. Adam is the rock that every team needs to be successful — reliable, steady and determined to lead by example.”

As head prefect, a position elected by students and faculty, he serves as the top representative of the student body.

“You’re kind of the bridge between the students and the faculty,” he said, then laughed. “A lot of meetings to go to.”

The position can be serious, even sobering, at times. As head prefect, DeSanctis serves on the select Disciplinary Committee, which — among other things — determines which students get expelled.

The Highlanders may be young this season, but there’s some decent talent around the two defensemen. Senior forward Terrence Wallin (Avon, Conn.) has committed to UMass-Lowell after putting up 15-26-41 totals last season. Senior goalie Bobby Segin has had a strong year, with three straight shutouts setting a program record.

And, as much chemistry as Wyszomirski and DeSanctis have developed away from the rink, they’ve never really had a chance to further it at the rink. Baudo has opted to pair them with different partners.

“We’re good buddies,” Wyszomirski said. “We do a lot of things together. Our (dorm) rooms are almost right next to each other. Our locker stalls are next to each other, so we’re cracking jokes all the time.

So, who’s the funny one?

“Oh, it’s me,” Wyszomirski said.

They’re hardly clones. But together, each in his own way, the two have given Gunnery plenty to smile about this winter.

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com