Mike Cazzola was only four years old when he strapped up the skates for the first time. “It’s something you do in Canada when you’re born. Your dad puts you on the ice and you pick it up from there,” Cazzola told Blue HQ Media.
Cazzola spent four full seasons in the OHL with the Erie Otters and spent his third season as assistant captain. When comparing his time in the OHL to the ECHL, he said, “The ECHL is a lot more competitive and everyone who plays are professional athletes. Preparation training and nutrition are used more than when I was in the OHL, and I think that competitive nature has allowed me to enjoy playing again.”
Cazzola will tell you that his four years with Erie were not his best, development wise. “I think for me personally,” Cazzola said, “Going to the CIS (Acadia Univ.), playing four years of university hockey, is where I gained a lot of confidence with the puck, something I never really gained in the OHL, and it allowed to be a more complete player.” When Cazzola was with Acadia University, he totaled 29 points in 28 games in his freshman year, 42 points in 28 games in his sophomore year, 32 points in 26 games in his junior year and 30 points in 25 games in his senior year– 2015-16. “This summer, I had a lot of interest from ECHL teams, so I knew that I would have the opportunity to play, but I never knew that I would have as much of an opportunity as Fort Wayne, specifically [head coach] Gary [Graham] gave me here and I am very fortunate for that.” That is the moment when Mike Cazzola knew he was going to play professional hockey.
Going into the playoffs, Cazzola doesn’t feel any pressure, even if it’s his first professional playoffs. “I don’t think I feel any pressure going into the playoffs,” Cazzola said. “We have a good group of guys who play for each other and I think we are so focused on winning that stats is that last thing you think about. Obviously you want to help the team win, but sometimes playing better defensively is just as important as scoring goals, and I think we have the group of guys who are willing to do whatever it takes.”
When asked what it was like to play in front of the biggest and most passionate fan base in the ECHL, Cazzola responded, “Fort Wayne has been awesome. It is one of, if not the loudest buildings in the ECHL and management goes above and beyond to keep the players and fans happy! The fans are amazing as well very loyal and when we aren’t playing well they always let us know, but they keep coming back and cheering for us, which is what we as players love.”
Obviously, Cazzola shares the same feelings as the rest of the team because the Komets had the best home record in the league, losing only seven games at home all season. When asked what he loved the most about Fort Wayne, he responded, “The thing I like most about Fort Wayne is how involved the community is with the team. There’s a reason we lead the league in attendance every year. Our organization does a great job with promotion events and the community responds every time we have something scheduled. It is also pretty cool to play in front of the loudest crowd in the ECHL as well.”
Everyone here at Blue HQ Media would like to thank Mike for his time. You can follow Mike and the Fort Wayne Komets on Twitter @zerbanger13 and @FWKomets. You can follow Blue HQ Media on Twitter for the latest Indiana sports news @BlueHQMedia. You can also follow me on Twitter for the latest on the Fort Wayne Komets @evanbluehq. You can catch the Komets in action in Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Playoffs tonight against the Toledo Walleye at 7:30 p.m.