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The puck slides up from the corner to the blueline. In a split second those who were defenders just a moment ago become attackers, and there’s only one person back to neutralize the impending 2-on-1. Welcome to Steven Santini’s comfort zone.
“Being a defenseman, I think, you kind of have to enjoy stopping other people as weird as that sounds,” Santini said. “I enjoy breaking up 2-on-1’s, stopping people on 1-on-1’s, I enjoy being that guy that shuts down the other team’s rush.”
The 6’1, 208 pound defenseman’s style of play is well balanced. Though his favorite aspect of the game may be shutting down opposing forwards, he does have an offensive element to his play. “I’m just a big defenseman,” Santini stated. “I skate pretty well, I move pucks up to my forwards, and I support the rush pretty well.” Santini also noted that he has patterned his play after two high caliber defensive defensemen; current Pittsburgh Penguin and Boston College alum Brooks Orpik and current Winnipeg Jet and USNTDP alum Mark Stuart.
Santini, a Mahopac, NY native, currently plays for the US National Team Development Program’s U-18 squad. When asked his goals for this season, Santini’s response was strictly team oriented. “My goals are to win the U-18 World Championships. It’s really been the focus of our team since the beginning of last year and that’s what we’ve been working for all year.”
Winning championships is nothing new for Santini. He won three state titles with the Westchester Express at the ages of 10, 12, and 14, which he dubs his favorite hockey memory thus far.
Though Santini’s focus to this point has been oriented towards larger achievements, he has also seen aspects of his game change on a more subtle level. “I’m not the most skilled guy,” he said. “But I think this year my vision has gotten a lot better and that’s helped my decision making.”
Regardless of what happens at the end of this season, Santini will find himself plying his trade in a new location next fall; Chestnut Hill, MA. Santini has committed to play NCAA hockey for coach Jerry York and the Eagles of Boston College.
Santini expects the college experience to help him grow in a number of ways. “As a person, first of all, it’s going to help me mature,” he said. “It’s going to teach me how to manage my time and my social life and my work. I’ll be much more regimented in what I do; it’s not just hockey, I’ll have to go to practice, get school work done, stay on top of everything.” Santini then added, “As a player I’m really excited to play for Jerry York. I’ve heard he’s a tremendous coach and I think he’ll help me a lot with my game.”
The talent Santini possesses should be enough to get him drafted early in the 2013 NHL Draft. What happens with his development after being groomed by NCAA hockey’s all-time winningest coach means that the best may be yet to come for this skilled, physical defenseman.