Joey Cassetti committed to Merrimack late last summer, just a few months after Scott Borek took the job as head coach. A well-polished forward, Cassetti is a former Boston College commit to will become the first skater to play for the Warriors out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, following in the footsteps of Joe Cannata, a former goaltender who arrived at Merrimack in 2008.
A California native, Cassetti moved to center last season for the Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) and finished the season with 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 62 games.
Cassetti is a veteran of 148 USHL games and appeared in 94 non-USHL games for Team USA.
After battling back from a torn MCL and ACL in his knee, Cassetti returned to the ice this past season and was one of Waterloo’s leaders in minutes played as he transitioned to a new position up the middle.
Name: Joey Cassetti
Hometown: Pleasanton, Calif.
Last Team: Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL)
TMR: As you were going through the recruiting process, what made Merrimack stand out to you as the place you wanted to play?
Cassetti: “I loved the campus. All of our facilities are great and everyone around here was great but the deciding factor for me was Coach Borek. He has a lot of enthusiasm and he’s a great guy. This seemed like it was going to be the best opportunity for me to come play under his coaching and develop and help the team.”
TMR: How would you describe your style as a player?
Cassetti: “I like to think that a coach can put me out in any situation. This past year I made the transition to center, and I think that helped me round out my game a little more. I want to be the guy that can play any type of game the coach wants me to play. I want to help in any situation I can.”
TMR: Talking to Coach Borek back in the spring, he said it was a longer road here for you than most, recovering from a pretty serious knee injury and having to re-open the recruiting process. What was your mindset through that whole process?
Cassetti: “Yeah, it was definitely a lot to go through. I tore my ACL and MCL and it was an eight-month recovery. Being away from the rink was the hardest part and then I had to miss the biggest tournament of the year for my team, so that made it even worse. That was tough for me because it was my first real injury. I had to deal with a lot of adversity, but looking back it did nothing but make me stronger.
“The biggest thing is it becomes a real mental game. When you’re going to the rink every day and then you’re not because you’re hurt. It’s a lot to deal with. But everything happens for a reason and I’m really happy the road led me here.”
TMR: What were some of the biggest adjustments or learning curves you had to make last year transitioning to center?
Cassetti: “When you’re the center you’re kind of the quarterback of the line. You have to be responsible in the offensive zone and the defensive zone. The biggest area where I improved was being more responsible with and without the puck.”
TMR: What was the experience like playing for the NTDP and where do you think your game grew the most playing for that program?
Cassetti: “You go into the USHL with that program really like, you’re 16 turning 17 your first year and you’re playing against guys who might be turning 21 years old. You learn to play against bigger and faster guys at a really young age. Then the following year, as an 18-year-old, you’re playing against college teams and you’re 18 playing against guys who might be 24 or 25, so it matures you really quick. You need to be really responsible with how you play but it’s a great way to develop.”
TMR: In some sense, do you feel like you’ve already had your freshman season having played against older guys, but especially that year spent playing college programs with the NTDP?
Cassetti: “That’s the nice part. I think I know what to expect coming in and I’m ready for it. I have at least a little bit of experience playing in college games.”
TMR: With so many new faces, is there a feeling among the group that anyone can step up and play right away?
Cassetti: “It’s great because we’re all doing things together. We’re all getting acclimated with school, and for a lot of us we’ve been out of classes for a little bit. It’s great getting to know all the guys and I can’t wait until we’re battling day in and day out. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really excited to get started.”