Foligno looking to make the jump

by Anthony Laurendi || AHL On The Beat Archive

For years, Buffalo Sabres fans filed into the Memorial Auditorium to watch one of their favorite players, Mike Foligno, lace up the skates for the blue and gold.

Foligno, known for his celebratory trademark jump after each goal he scored, captured the hearts of Sabres fans in the ’80s on the way to becoming one of the most prominent figures in team history.

Now, more than 25 years later, a new Foligno is looking to play for the same franchise and carry on the legacy his father left, while at the same time beginning one of his own.

Mike’s youngest son, Marcus, was Buffalo’s fourth-round choice (104th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, becoming the third member of his family to live the dream of playing professional hockey.

After playing four seasons with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League under the close guidance of his father, Foligno made the transition to the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans this year.

The 2011-12 season marks the rookie campaign for Foligno, who has been a consistent scoring threat for the Amerks throughout the year. Foligno’s 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) and plus-13 rating through 54 games make him Rochester’s second-highest point-getter, and despite just being a first-year pro, he already exhibits the tools necessary for a proper development.

“His progress, I feel, has been very good in terms of a model in what you want from your young players in the American Hockey League,” said Amerks head coach Ron Rolston. “He’s to the point now on a nightly basis where he’s a dominant player.”

Foligno is the first to admit that he has been the beneficiary of an injury-plagued season for the parent-club Sabres.

“With all the injuries in Buffalo and having guys get called up, I was lucky enough to stay healthy,” said Foligno, who born in Buffalo during his father’s playing days with the Sabres. “I got my shot to play some good minutes in key situations, and I have made the best of it.”

The hard work that Foligno has put in this year with Rochester paid off with a recall to the Buffalo Sabres for a game against the Ottawa Senators in December. It would be a family affair for the Folignos, as Marcus’ brother, Nick, is a member of the Senators. Friends and family made the six-and-a-half hour drive from the Folignos’ hometown of Sudbury to Ottawa for the game.

Fresh off an Amerks win in Houston, Marcus received the news that he was being called up.

“I was shocked and excited. A ton of emotions ran through my head,” said Foligno, who was rushed to Ottawa along with fellow Amerk Derek Whitmore to join the big club. “The first thing I did was call Nick and told him to be ready because I was coming for him.”

Growing up, Nick and Marcus were surrounded by hockey and competed against one another at many different levels.

“We fell in love with the game, no matter what it was, from mini-sticks to street hockey,” remembered Marcus. “We grew up with the game and haven’t looked back.”

When the puck dropped in Ottawa back on Dec. 20, 2011, it was the grandest stage the brothers have ever competed on.

“How quickly time flies,” said Nick Foligno of the Senators. “It’s a testament to Marcus, he’s worked hard to develop his game and to get here (the NHL).”

Marcus has used his time in practice to further sharpen his skill-set and uses the advice of a knowledgeable coaching staff to improve.

“I’ve worked well with Chris Taylor (Amerks development coach), a former pro player,” Foligno acknowledged. “He has helped me with the little things that sharpen the skills I need in order to get to the next level.”

The extra time that Foligno has put in to improve as a player has certainly paid off. The young Foligno eagerly awaits his chance to be called up again and remain in Buffalo.

“I know it is going to take time and hard work, but I’m ready for it,” he remarked.

The 20-year-old has the unique opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps and play for the Sabres organization.

“I’m excited to be a part of it. Wearing the Sabres’ jersey is an honor and it is something I want to do for a long, long time. I am able to continue the Foligno name here in Buffalo, but I also look forward to making a name for myself.”