By Danielle Catalano
Neil Petruic is the quietest defenseman with the Binghamton Senators hockey club and perhaps the most laid back player on the team. He does nothing fancy, contend fellow defenseman Drew Fata and assistant coach Mike Busniuk. What you see is what you get. But, the two men quickly point out, that is not a bad thing. In fact, it is what has helped transform Petruic into a blue line defenseman.
“Neil is a very smart player,” Busniuk says. “He reads our plays really well. He plays good defense without sacrificing good offense, and what I mean is, he doesn’t get caught up the ice. He tries not to do too much with the puck. He keeps things simple, and I think that’s probably his best attribute.”
“Trucker’s pretty much one of the most successful players we have,” adds Fata. “He’s not flashy, and sometimes if you don’t notice him out there, then he’s doing a pretty good job. That’s just the way he plays—I don’t think he knows any other style to play. To have a guy back there, you always know what you’re going to expect.”
Considering Petruic traveled halfway around the world to end up where he began his professional career, those words speak volumes of just how far the Regina, Sask., native has come along in the American Hockey League.
Petruic was chosen 235th by Ottawa in the 2001 NHL draft and spent the next four years playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, helping the Bulldogs make it to the semifinals of the Frozen Four during his junior season. The defenseman headed east to Binghamton in 2005, and while he played 51 games, Petruic admits something was off his play. “Not to be clichéd, but like every rookie you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “Everything is kind of new. You’re not as comfortable or playing the way you think you should be playing at times. Just like anything you don’t know, it’s bit more nerve-wracking.”
Petruic remained with the team the following season, but something still wasn’t clicking and at the start of the 2007-08 season, he signed with Bolzano HC of the Italian League. Bolzano ended up winning the league’s championship title, but Petruic’s time in the Italian Alps was focused more on conditioning his form and returning to North American hockey as a more competitive athlete than hoisting a cup.
“You always want to play your best,” he says.  “Here, hockey’s more fun, for lack of a better word. There, it was more like a job, as far as enjoying myself.”
Petruic made his way to the States this season via the Stockton Thunder of the East Coast Hockey League. His stay with the northern California club, though, would end after a few weeks when in mid-November, Binghamton defenseman Brendan Bell was recalled by the Ottawa Senators. Days later on Nov. 20, Binghamton signed Petruic to a professional tryout contact. Busniuk, who had urged Ottawa to retain Petruic before he moved to Europe, immediately noticed a change in the defender’s confidence on the ice.
“When he first came up (from Stockton), he really wasn’t playing much, wasn’t really used much, but most players from the East Coast are like that,” Busniuk explains. “As he went along—and I knew this was going to happen because we had him three years ago—he just worked himself into the lineup and just didn’t make a lot of mistakes. When you have a defenseman who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes—and then you have Neil who can play 5-6 or 1-2 compellingly and can play all six defensive positions—then that’s a great type of player to have.”
He’s also the type of player who is not afraid to throw his 6’1”, 200-pound frame into an opposing player to protect the puck, something Busniuk is proud to see developed in Petruic since forechecking has become a significant role in how the B-Sens’ defend the offensive zone this season.
“If you watch the tapes of our games during our video sessions, you see Neil sacrifice his body to make a play,” Busniuk says. “It’s really a tough thing to do when you know that when somebody skates down, he’s going to ram you as hard as he can into the boards. You take the check and then make the play, and I think that’s also one of his best team attributes.”
This grit is appreciated even more so by his linemates as the games down the regular-season stretch are becoming tighter and the team adjusting accordingly. “Obviously, you can take chances a little bit more aggressively because you know what he’s bringing each shift,” Fata says. “You generally know he’s always going to be back there protecting the zone, so if something happens, you know he’s going to be open for you to make a pass and save or carry a play.”
To be the calm amid this flurry may not have been something Petruic could have provided a few years ago, but now, it is second nature to him. “It’s not easy sometimes,” says Petruic. “You hear the fans getting into it, but you just have to keep talking to yourself, just tell yourself to keep that even-keel-type-of-thing and not get caught up with what the fans are yelling or even what the other team’s coaches and players are yelling on the ice. These games are obviously big ones for the team, and to sound like a cliche again, it’s important to not get too much up or too much down. Our chances will hopefully come through in a clutch when we need to.”

Search Archive »

Browse by Year »


Browse by Month »

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
April 2008
January 2008

VS Binghamton Senators Albany Devils
B-Sens vs. Devils
@ 7:05PM Saturday, Oct 10
the ARENA - Binghamton
VS Binghamton Senators Rochester Americans
B-Sens vs. Amerks
@ 7PM Saturday, Apr 18
the ARENA - Binghamton W5-0
Syracuse Crunch
Syracuse Crunch
@ October 17, 2015
War Memorial Arena - Syracuse, NY
St. John's IceCaps
St. John's IceCaps
@ October 20, 2015
Mile One Centre - St. John's, NL
St. John's IceCaps
St. John's IceCaps
@ October 21, 2015
Mile One Centre - St. John's, NL
> < September 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
  Home   Away