Fayetteville, N.C- Former Alaska Aces Captain and Kelly Cup champion, Nick Mazzolini, has been hired as the head coach of the Fayetteville Marksmen, the team announced Friday morning.
“Maz brings a lot of experience from numerous leagues in the U.S and Europe.” Team President Jeff Longo stated. “We feel he brings a great attitude and leadership along with a winning culture to Fayetteville and we’re excited to see him start his coaching career with us.”
Mazzolini (32) played his junior hockey in the NAHL, suiting up for the Toledo IceDiggers, Dayton Gems, and Texas Tornado between 2003-05.
The following season, Mazzolini joined the Providence Friars of the NCAA, where he was teammates with current NHLer Mark Fayne (Edmonton Oilers). In his four years at Providence, Mazzolini netted 25 goals and 42 assists for 67 points in 128 career games.
Following his senior season, the Anchorage, Alaska native joined his hometown team, the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. In his first season as a professional, Mazzolini scored 27 goals with 37 assists for a total of 64 points-all of which led the team for the 2009-10 season.
After spending the 2010-11 season with Bolzano HC of the Italy-A league, Italy’s top hockey league, Nick returned to the Aces in 2011 and was named Captain of the team for the 2013-14 season, the same year the Aces captured the Kelly Cup.
Mazzolini concluded his playing career with the Frankfurt Lions of the Del-2 league, Germany’s second tier of professional hockey, at the end the 2016-17 season.
“I can’t thank these guys enough for taking a chance on me.” Mazzolini noted. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I’m excited to sink my teeth into this opportunity.”
As far as the hockey team goes, Mazzolini is in a “win now” mindset and recalled the feeling of lifting the Kelly Cup.
“I didn’t think (winning) a pro championship would mean so much to me, but it was special to do it in front of my hometown, the people that had helped develop me. It’s something I want to help bring to the community of Fayetteville.”
In a separate move, the team also announced Ryan Cruthers has been hired as the Director of Hockey Operations.
“Ryan is another hockey-mind that can come in here and have a positive effect on our roster and the development of our guys and the team.” Longo added. “Much like Nick, Ryan brings a leadership quality to this team and brings a level of integrity that in is so important in the formation of any front office.”
“This is exciting stuff for the team and for Fayetteville.” Team Owner, Chuck Norris added. “We’ve got two guys here who not only know the game of hockey, but have filled leadership roles and have won championships. This team has been close the last couple of years, but we feel really good going into next season with Maz and Cruthers on our side.”
Cruthers (32) spent eight years between three leagues (CHL, ECHL, AHL) as a professional, but spent much of his playing time as a member of the Reading Royals of the ECHL where he served as team captain and is the all-time leader in points scored.
After the 2014-15 season, the Farmingdale, New York native joined the Charlotte Rush of the United States Premier Hockey League as the head coach/owner. He guided the team to the league championship in the 2016-17 season.
“I’m overly excited to be involved with pro hockey again.” Cruthers said. “After speaking with Chuck and Jeff, I thought ‘this is a place I want to be,’ and I’m excited to learn a different side of the business from two great businessmen.”
As for the relationship between the Director of Hockey Ops and the Head Coach, Cruthers expects to see a continuation of their chemistry from when they were line-mates in Alaska during a portion of the 2011-12 campaign.
“We always worked well together and just had that instant chemistry when we were line-mates. We were good friends and have remained good friends. I’m excited to get to work with Nick and help him develop as a coach.”
Cruthers will continue to coach the Rush, while helping to fill out the Marksmen roster.
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Season tickets are on sale now, with tickets starting as low as $9 per game. More information is available at: https://marksmenhockey.com/tickets/season-tickets/.
The Fayetteville Marksmen are owned and operated by Union Pro Hockey Group and play their home games at Crown Coliseum. The Marksmen are a committed community asset, designed to provide premium entertainment to families and individuals in Cumberland County and surrounding areas.