© 2007 The State
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Ryan Gunderson’s life changed in a span of less than 24 hours recently.
Gunderson, a 21-year-old defenseman, was in his University of Vermont dorm room on March 11 the day after the Catamounts were eliminated from the Hockey East Conference tournament when he received a phone call from Inferno coach Troy Mann.
“It came out of the blue, a total surprise,” Gunderson said of the offer to play out the season with the Inferno. “I figured I’d have to wait until the summer to see if I’d get a chance to play pro with somebody. It’s been a whirlwind week, that’s for sure.”
Gunderson, who is from the Philadelphia suburb of Bensalem, Pa., was impressive in his first three games with the Inferno this past week, producing two assists and showing the mobility and good puck movement that impressed Mann in the first place.
“I’m impressed so far, even though he isn’t a big guy,” Mann said.
“He’s got good vision, has the good first pass you look for in a puck-moving defenseman and makes smart plays. In terms of skating and puck handling, he reminds me of (former Inferno favorite) Derek Eastman, except he isn’t as physical yet. But he’s still getting his feet wet at this level, and that will come as he adjusts to the pro game.”
The Inferno lists the rookie at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds.
Gunderson is a rare late-season college pick-up for the Inferno.
“I lost out on a couple of other college guys that I was after because we weren’t going to be in the playoffs, so I wanted to give this kid a tryout. I like what I’ve seen, so this gives me a head start in recruiting him to stay with us next year if that’s what he wants.”
Gunderson noticed the change in the level of play immediately.
“The game is much more controlled — you don’t have guys running around looking for big hits all the time like you do in college,” he said. “And the passing is much more precise. It’s been a lot to take in, but, hopefully, I can help the team and make a good impression.”
Gunderson is a full-time student and will return to Vermont after the Inferno’s season ends in early April. In the meantime, he will continue with his schoolwork while he is in Columbia.