Every week leading up to October 13, the Rookie Round-Up will give ECHL fans the chance to get to know a rookie who has signed with an ECHL team for the 2017-18 season. This week, the ECHL spoke with Michael Pontarelli of the Quad City Mallards. He’s eagerly awaiting and preparing for his first professional season – get to know him in this Q&A!
Name: Michael Pontarelli
Hometown: Laval, Quebec
ECHL Team: Quad City Mallards
2016-17 Team: Union College (23 gp, 2g, 5a, 7 pts.)
ECHL: What should Mallards' fans know about you?
Michael Pontarelli: Mallards' fans should know that I am a competitive player looking to make my mark in the pro game. I'm undersized but skilled and am really developing as a two-way player. I began focusing on my defensive game in college and feel like that was the biggest part of improvement in my game over my four years of college hockey.
ECHL: Why did you choose to sign in Quad City?
MP: It just seemed like a good fit to me. Ever since I started out talking to them I felt comfortable and seemed natural. They've made the playoffs for three straight years and have had a lot of success on the ice and everyone I talked to had good things to say about the organization, the arena and the area.
ECHL: You played five games with Norfolk last season after completing your collegiate career. Has that helped in your preparations for this season?
MP: Without a doubt that was a big help to me. The pro game is entirely different from college and I realized that pretty quickly my first game out there. It was good to get my feet wet and know what to expect coming into my rookie season. If I hadn't played those games, I wouldn't have known what to expect but now I feel like I am prepared and ready to go.
ECHL: What are you most looking forward to in your first season of pro hockey?
MP: I'm looking forward to the long season. It's a lot different than the 30-35 game season in college. I'm ready for a full 72-game schedule and just playing and competing to try to win a championship. I'm excited to get to training camp and get going.
ECHL: What was it like to win the NCAA National Championship with Union College in 2014?
MP: That was without a doubt the best hockey moment of my life. You can only dream about winning a national title when you start your college career and it was a surreal feeling to actually accomplish it. The Championship Game was a back-and-forth game and when it was winding down I sort of just blacked out and don't remember much. We had so many good players that season that we never really doubted that we wouldn't win. It was a roller coaster for 60 minutes and when we iced the game in the closing minutes it was just a great feeling.
ECHL: Who do you model your game after?
MP: I like to model my game after other undersized players who are a bit dynamic offensively. Guys like Jonathan Drouin or Patrick Kane who are good with the puck but also responsible defensively.
ECHL: How have you been spending your summer?
MP: Mainly just working and training for the upcoming season. I did take a trip earlier in the summer with some of the guys I gradated with to Punta Cana but other than that just doing a lot of golfing and working out.
ECHL: Do you know any of your new teammates in Quad City?
MP: I don't really know anyone there, I'm kind of going in blind. One of the guys I played with in Norfolk at the end of last season is going into camp on a tryout but other than that I don't know anyone.
ECHL: Any last words for Mallards' fans?
MP: They should know that I am excited for a fresh start and excited to be a Mallard. I hope we can win a lot of games and have some fun at the same time.