Shane Pinto, a 3.75 star prospect, recently committed to North Dakota. He currently plays for Selects Hockey Academy and was drafted by the USHL’s Lincoln Stars in the 21st round. The New York native is a versatile forward with a strong stick who can contribute up and down the roster. He earned an A- at the Beantown Fall Classic.
Neural Zone chatted with Pinto about his youth hockey experience, being drafted into the USHL, and how he settled on the Fighting Hawks:
Neutral Zone: How and when did you start playing hockey?
Shane Pinto: I started playing hockey when I was seven. My dad got me into thinking I would really enjoy it. At first, I completely hated it. Every time I was on the ice my back always hurt and I always thought to myself this wasn’t the sport for me.
NZ: What was your earliest memory of playing hockey?
SP: My earliest memory had to be when I played my first organized game. I remember not being good at all. I touched the puck maybe once or twice that game, but the one time I did touch it, I scored a goal off a rebound. It felt pretty good.
NZ: What was your youth hockey experience like growing up in NY?
SP: Growing up in New York, playing hockey was really competitive. There are a ton of good hockey players in New York. I always flew under the radar because there were so many good kids from New York and I was always playing Tier II. I never got invited to New York State camp until last year. However, I never got to be part of National camp.
NZ: What other schools talked to you and where else did you visit?
SP: The other schools I talked to were Michigan State, UMass, Penn State and Providence. I’ve visited all those schools and they all have great programs.
NZ: How did you decide on North Dakota?
SP: I decided North Dakota because of people and culture that they have. The coaching staff makes you feel like you’re part of a family and are so professional in the way they do things. They have great people throughout their program and the culture they have created is awesome to be a part of. Not to mention, the fans are the best. [Tickets] are sold out every night and they care so much about the program. The Ralph is the best.
NZ: What was your experience of getting drafted into the USHL like?
SP: Getting drafted into the USHL was a pretty cool experience. The Lincoln Starts are such a great organization and it was awesome to be drafted by them. When I did get drafted it felt good at the moment, but I knew I had to get ready for the camp coming up. I was nervous because I knew there were a bunch of older guys and I’d never participated in one of these camps. It turned out I did pretty well at the camp, and that’s where I first talked to Coach  Jackson at North Dakota. I couldn’t believe he was interested. It was a cool moment.
NZ: What’s your biggest on-ice strength?
I think my biggest on ice strength is I think the game pretty well. I think I can anticipate certain things and have pretty good hockey IQ.
NZ: What area are you trying to improve on the most?
I need to work on all parts of my game. I think the one thing that sticks out that I need to work on is my skating. It’s such an important part of the game and, if you want to continue to move on in hockey, you need to become an elite skater.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you faced in hockey?
SP: The toughest challenge I’ve faced in hockey is leaving home at 15 to come play hockey at Selects Academy. Don’t get me wrong, it was the best decision I have ever made but it was hard leaving my family. The beginning of the season was tough for me. I struggled through the first couple games and I started to wonder to myself if I should be here. I was getting down on myself. Then, I started to take advantage of skating during my free blocks and working on my game. As I started to put in more work, my game started become better and better. I learned the harder you work, the luckier you get. That’s how I got through that tough time.
Photo Credit: Hickling Images