Victor Mancini is a Nebraska-Omaha recruit who is playing this season for Frölunda HC J20 in Sweden.
Mancini, a defenseman, has seven points (5g-2a) in 22 games this season, and the Michigan native recently spoke with Neutral Zone about his decision to commit to Nebraska-Omaha as well as play this season overseas in Sweden.
“Victor is a big player who handles the puck and will skate the puck up ice,” our scouts said. “He moves his feet to get himself in a shooting lane to get the shot on net. He plays a physical game by closing the gap and not giving the opponent time and space. He plays a confident game and he communicates with his teammates.”
NZ: What are some of your earliest memories of hockey?
Mancini: “I remember going to Saginaw Spirit hockey games as a young kid. My dad was the head coach of the OHL team at the time, and my mother and I would go to all the home games. I remember always being excited to go to the games. We’d sit in the same spot every game, which was near the corner of the rink where the players and coaches would enter the rink from, so I’d always get to see my dad walk to and from the bench in-between periods. I was about three when he first got the job, so going to the games sparked my interest in hockey. I kept telling my Mom that I wanted to do what they were doing. She told me I had to learn to skate first. So I started “Learn to Skate” at three years old.”
NZ: Growing up with a father so heavily involved in the game, I imagine you were around the rink a lot as a kid?
Mancini: “With my dad coaching in Saginaw, I used to walk around the rink as a child thinking I owned the place. I’d get to skate on the ice after practice with players. I’d play wiffleball in the locker room with the equipment manager and would sometimes crash some of my dad’s post-game interviews. It really grew my love for the game, and still to this day I always love being at the rink.”
NZ: The Michigan area is obviously a hockey hotbed. What was it like coming up through the ranks in that area of the country where there are so many good Tier I programs?
Mancini: “It was a competitive atmosphere playing amateur hockey in Michigan. There are only eight Tier I teams in Michigan, so almost every game would be a rivalry. The games were intense because no one wanted to lose to another Michigan team, which I think made the games more fun to play in comparison to playing a team outside the state.”
NZ: How would you describe your game? What are your strengths?
Mancini: “I would describe myself as a two-way defender with an offensive upside, who can play in all situations. I can play tough and physical defense against opposing players in the defensive zone and in the corners. I can win pucks and break my team out to create offense, and when the opportunity presents itself, I jump into the play to create even more offense in the offensive zone.”
NZ: On the flip side, what are some things you’re looking to improve on this season?
Mancini: “Some things that I’m looking to improve on this season is maturing my game and making sure I’m making the right decisions and plays every time. I want to close opponents off in the neutral zone to make it hard for them to cleanly enter my team’s defensive zone.”
NZ: What attracted you to Nebraska-Omaha during the recruiting process?
Mancini: “When I visited UNO, I really enjoyed getting to know the coaches. They’re great people who I know care about me as a person. I know that when I’m there, I’m going to become a better hockey player and person because they’re going to push me and hold me to a high standard.”
NZ: What prompted you to take your game over to Sweden this year? That’s not a path we see a lot of players take, so I’m interested in what prompted that.
Mancini: “The biggest thing for me was the player development aspect that Frölunda does so well. I always say that it’s not about where I am now, but where I’m going to be in the future. Going to Frölunda is really helping me develop into the player I want to become and is setting me up for success in any future hockey leagues I play in. “
NZ: What have been some of the biggest things you’ve noticed playing in the SuperElit? What are some of the differences between hockey over there and here in the states?
NZ: “I haven’t played this level of hockey in the United States yet, so I’m not sure I can adequately compare the two. However, hockey here in Sweden is highly skill-based. The off-ice training is intense. We get a lot of individual coaching with video review and person goal planning. Every night you need to bring your “A” game, which is the same in the United States.”
NZ: I’ve heard a lot of great things about how practices are structured in Sweden. It’s a lot of skills in the morning and then team practices in the afternoon. Is that how it’s structured for you guys?
Mancini: “Yes, three days a week our team wakes up early. We go in the weight room for an hour, then are on the ice afterwards for a skills practice. Then in the afternoon the team comes back to the rink to hit the weight room again, then get back on the ice for a team-based practice.”
NZ: Has it been a difficult adjustment from a cultural perspective?
Mancini: “I think that at first it was a difficult adjustment, however now I’m really enjoying the lifestyle. Once I learned how to use the public transportation, and how to get around the city it got a lot easier. My teammates have really helped me to make the adjustment. They all speak English very well, which was an enormous help. I’ve now just been enjoying living and playing here. I try to take everything in because I know this is a once in the lifetime experience.”