(photo: Jack Lima Photography)
Lightning fast down the wing, you might just miss the newest Stockton Thunder forward if you glance away from the game. Vinny Scarsella isn’t a big body on the ice but he’s an impact player, working hard every shift. He spent a year and a half with the Utah Grizzlies, racking up 20 goals and 34 assists in that time before being acquired by the Thunder in exchange for forward Ryan Hayes. According to Thunder Head Coach Rich Kromm, Scarsella came as advertised and does “pretty much what we expected of him… Vinny plays a pretty complete game all the time and skates really well.”
The diminutive forward does skate like a dream, weaving around the bigger bodies on the ice and turning on the jets to make a quick zone entry. The Thunder are stacked with smaller forwards, 5’8″ the average height, and there is an advantage to being undersized. A lower center of gravity allows you to transfer more of your energy into a skating stride and a smaller frame gives you quickness and sharpness in tight turns and direction changes, desirable skills if you want to shake an attacker. Scarsella knows though that being one of the smaller guys means you have to work twice as hard out there on the ice against the bigger players.
“I’m a small speedy guy,” said Scarsella when asked what he brings to the game. “I give a little edge in the offensive zone, help keep pucks in, and get the cycle going.”
The Grizzlies, Scarsella’s former team, is loaded with forwards who are on average 6′ so it was a change of pace for him to be surrounded by so many players who matched both his height and knack for speed.
“Just knowing how I play and seeing the smaller guys on this team, it’s been nice to see guys kinda my height. It’s fun, its a skilled team, a fast team, and I think I could help contribute a lot to this team.”
Despite the disparity in height between the teams, Scarsella says the transition was an easy one to make given the similarity in playing style both teams have. A combination of mobile forwards and heavy-hitting, bigger bodied defensemen are characteristics the Grizzlies and Thunder share.
“There are a lot of skilled forwards and a lot of good D on the back end. We like to get the pucks deep and grind in the corners, so yeah there are a lot of similarities. Coming over actually hasn’t been that big of an adjustment.”
“Once we get our chemistry down I think we are going to be a really productive line,” said Scarsella after his first game with the duo. “They both work really hard, both got really good hands, good vision, so I’m excited to see what will come out of that line.”
Their third game together seemed to be the charm with Scarsella breaking through the slot from a feed from MacLellan and Shattock for a third period goal. Then MacLellan chipped the puck over the goalie’s glove after being set up by Scarsella and Shattock late in the game.
“[Tyler Shattock] made a nice play on the boards and Jack [MacLellan] make a really nice play along the wall walking the defenseman and then made a great pass to me and I did the easy part,” said Scarsella about his first goal with the Thunder. “Those guys made the nice plays on that one and I was fortunate to be at the end of it.”
Not only is Scarsella a playmaker at even strength, he feels where he can really contribute is on the power play. Special teams are crucial to the success of a team and getting a goal on the man advantage can change the momentum and the tide of the game. He prides himself of being that guy that can come through and contribute on the scoresheet on the power play. Getting that kind of a goal once a game, says Scarsella, boosts your chances of winning and at this point in the season, the Thunder can use all the Ws they can get.
With a few more games behind him with the team, expect to hear Scarsella chirping on the bench, getting the guys fired up. “Once I get more comfortable with the guys, I’ll be a little bit more vocal on the bench, you know just be a good team guy all around, that’s what I bring.”