B-Sens rookies learning the pro game together

by Nicole Del Villano | AHL On The Beat Archive

Rookies Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick had more than four years of familiarity under their belts when they went into the February 7th game on the same line against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
After starting together in the United States Hockey League, McCormick and Dzingel were both drafted in the 2011 National Hockey League Draft. The Ottawa Senators took McCormick in the 6th round followed by Dzingel in the 7th.
Both players went on to Ohio State to begin their college careers and their time as teammates. Being together brought a friendship for the duo but also a constant competition in everything they did.
“We are really competitive with each other,” said McCormick. “I think we pushed each other a lot in practices and even in games because we always wanted to beat each other whether it was something small like ping pong in the locker room or something in practice.”
Dzingel proved to be an offensive force in college, tying for the team’s leading scorer as a freshman and then being the lone winner during his sophomore and junior years. He was also a 2014 Hobey Baker Award finalist and named to other numerous honors. 
McCormick was named the team’s Rookie of the Year during his 2011-12 campaign and was a two-time CCHA Rookie of the Week. He was a scholar athlete throughout his career and ended his sophomore and junior year third and second on the team for points, respectively.
Despite being competitive teammates, both rookies took their situation and time together as a learning experience for their own game.
“[McCormick’s] a hard worker,” said Dzingel. “He’s always doing the little stuff, so it’s good to have a guide, a role model.”
The former Buckeye standouts have joined a young Binghamton Senators team for their first full American Hockey League season and have made their presence known both on and off the ice.
“They have a great family mentality. I’m sure that must have come from their upbringing but also something they acquired in Ohio State,” said head coach Luke Richardson.“They have the same attitude; they would do anything for their teammates, and that goes a long way in the dressing room.”
On the ice, both rookies have fallen into different positions with the team. Dzingel had a chance at the end of the 2013-14 season to join the B-Sens and take some time to learn. He compiled two goals and five assists over the nine games he played.
“It’s different from college to pros,” said Dzingel. “[You have to] get the pucks off quicker and make little plays that in college you didn’t have to make because guys weren’t as close and as tight as they are here. So I am learning [little things] from the guys, coaches and doing video.”
Dzingel currently leads all B-Sens rookies with 11 goals and six assists over 37 games played. The 22-year-old took his time with the team in training camps and last year as a lesson to help him improve his game.
“Ryan gets those hard lessons that these offensive guys learn,” said Richardson. “[He had to learn] to play defense and away from the puck. Learning to play a little less risky offensively so you don’t necessarily have to play defense – I think that’s probably the biggest thing and the hardest lesson to learn.”
The 22-year-old forward came into the 2014-15 season with his only experience with the team being training camps. Excited to come work with guys he knew from camp like Matt Puempel and Darren Kramer, McCormick has since emerged as a force on the ice.
“They fit in well with everybody. Max is a lead-by-example [guy] with toughness, grit, blocked shots and penalty kill,” said Richardson. “He does all those intangible things and stands up for his teammates. Max is a hard, gritty player and has adjusted to hitting fast out of the gate.”
Over 36 games played this season, McCormick has compiled six goals, six assists and 104 penalty minutes. He is currently leads all rookies in the AHL for penalty minutes and is 20th in the entire AHL.
“I just try to play a physical, gritty game,” said McCormick. “[I] move my feet and finish my checks. When you play like that sometimes you have to answer the bell, and that’s something I’m fine with doing.”
The hard, enforcer mentality is something that McCormick leaves on the ice only, being a friend to everyone in the locker room and a quick fan favorite in the community.
“I think the support that we get from the community and the atmosphere in the rink has been awesome so far since I’ve been here,” said McCormick. “It’s one of the best rinks that I’ve played in the league so far.”
With the challenges the B-Sens have had to face over the past few years with call ups, injuries and player movement, the rookies’ presence and development will be important for the future. The forwards are a little over halfway through their first year and are keeping what they have learned during their time together in mind. They also are still open to changing what needs to be done in order for their team to succeed.
“Their confidence has changed,” said Richardson. “They are both really good young players. They aren’t afraid to ask questions, learn and get better on the fly.”