On a roster top-heavy with underclassmen, Ryan Viselli has stood out as a player who has shown constant improvement.
The 5-foot-10 forward from Windsor, Ontario didn’t even suit up for the Falcons until the fifth game of the season — a 5-4 overtime victory over Alabama-Huntsville. He registered his first career point, an assist, in the second period of that game.
Now, he has demonstrated that he is willing to be one of the team’s hardest workers, something that coach Chris Bergeron has been looking for from his team all season.
“His biggest asset is that he cares so much,” Bergeron said of Viselli. “That’s something that you can’t teach people; he wants to be a part of the solution and he wants it better and that’s what I think makes his future here real positive.”
Viselli spent his four years prior to BG playing junior hockey, first with the Tecumseh Chiefs of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, then with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League.
In his junior hockey career, he registered 215 points (87 goals, 128 assists) in 207 games, with his best season coming in his last year with Tecumseh in 2007-08, where he registered 34 goals and 46 assists in 46 games.
“[Playing junior hockey] helped me a lot, the organization that I played for in Penticton was very professional and treated us well,” Viselli said. “Playing in junior ‘B’ practicing twice a week to junior ‘A’ practicing every day, it got faster, and now here in the CCHA, it’s even faster, but juniors prepared me well.”
His production dropped slightly after he moved up to tier ‘A’ in the BCHL, but his strong play warranted a scholarship offer from BG and he committed last season to then-interim head coach Dennis Williams.
Even after Bergeron was named head coach last April, Viselli said that his commitment to the University never wavered.
“I was a little surprised, but I talked to [Bergeron] on the phone and his plans seemed great and I liked where he wanted to go with them, so it wasn’t a hard decision to stay here at all,” Viselli said.
While it took him several games to initially crack the lineup, Viselli hasn’t disappointed with his play on the ice.
“From the beginning of the year until today, there is probably nobody more improved in all aspects,” Bergeron said. “He is more confident now, he is in better shape now … he’s got some pretty good hockey sense to him and he’s done a great job for us.”
While he has found the assist column of the score sheet multiple times this season, he had not scored a goal until last Friday against Western Michigan. That goal was the only goal of the game for BG, which helped the Falcons eventually win in a shootout.
“It was a good feeling, a little bit overdue,” Viselli said. “I just shot the puck and saw that it went in and was excited; it was a nice pass from [Mike] Fink, so that really made it easy.”
Despite that being his only goal in the season, Viselli is sixth on the team with eight points in 23 games. He is third on the team in points among freshmen — trailing Cam Wojtala and Brett Mohler, who each have 12.
His strong play recently has not only caught the eye of the coaching staff, but also of some of his teammates.
“He’s been one of the bright spots for us, he’s playing with the utmost confidence right now,” said captain David Solway. “His first couple of weeks here he was chipping in and making the easy plays and now that he’s a lot more seasoned he’s playing with more confidence and helping out.
“His attitude coming to the rink every day and the weight room and the way he lives his life, I think that he’s made a change from where he used to be to where he is now. All those intangibles that the fans don’t see are starting to show up.”