By Sean McClelland
Dayton Daily News
KETTERING, Ohio – At a recent booster function ushering in another Dayton Bombers season, Preston Mizzi had the good fortune to sit near the disc jockey.
“I made a suggestion that we need more country music,” Mizzi said. “It was a nice day outside, the leaves were falling. It just seemed like the right mood for country.”
Soon the sounds of Tim McGraw, Shania Twain and Kenny Chesney filled the room and nobody complained. If anything, the Bombers’ bonding process — more than two-thirds of the hockey team is new this season — received a helpful nudge when Mizzi commandeered the musical menu.
“You really find out a lot about people when you see them across a room singing a country song when they pretend they like the rap and all that other stuff,” Mizzi said.
This kind of behavior is exactly what teammates are growing to expect from Mizzi, a 23-year-old center who played for the Bombers the last time they qualified for the ECHL playoffs, and, despite the franchise’s gloomy recent past, is overjoyed to be back.
He bears physical scars from that previous Dayton stint, including one souvenir above his right eyebrow, the handiwork of a skate blade. But most of the memories are pleasant. The Bombers, who have missed the playoffs the past two years, made the Kelly Cup finals in 2002. Mizzi, with 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games, played well enough to earn 27 games for Syracuse, the next step up the hockey ladder.
A season with the Pee-Dee Pride and another with Atlantic City then gave Mizzi a tour of the ECHL he could have done without. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, native never felt at home in either place, which explains why he jumped at the chance to become a Bomber again this summer when co-owner/coach Don MacAdam acquired his rights in exchange for popular forward Fraser Clair.
“I get people who come up to me and say it’s been terrible here since I left,” Mizzi said. “I was always looking on the Internet to see how my friends were doing. What were they, 15-50 or something? I felt bad for the guys who were still here.”
It’s been something of a luckless return for Mizzi, who missed all of training camp after breaking a bone in his left foot while helping to build a cottage near his hometown. A steel door fell on his foot.
“Right on top,” he said. “It was a freak accident, but pretty bad timing.”
The Bombers lost their first two games but have since won three straight. They are 2-0 with Mizzi in the lineup.
“We just needed a little more experience,” MacAdam said. “That first weekend, we were getting killed on faceoffs. We were losing them clean. It was awful.”
Mizzi would have gone to training camp with Syracuse if not for the injury. The home opener last Friday, a 5-4 win against Wheeling, marked his season debut, and he will take his regular shift this weekend as Dayton plays host to Wheeling on Friday and Atlantic City — in Clair’s return — on Sunday.
Like Clair, Mizzi enjoys needling opponents. Sunday, with both of them on the ice, other players will be lucky to get a word in edgewise.
Mizzi chirps in practice, too.
“Someone’s got to keep the guys loose,” he reasons. “I get to play hockey for a living. That’s the way I look at things. I come to the rink every morning, and I’m in a great mood.”
Waking up in Dayton again has something to do with that.
“I like a place where there’s a mall to hang out at, where there’s a big movie theater,” he said. “In Atlantic City, unless you like to gamble, there’s not much to do. And everything’s so expensive. I really felt this was the place I wanted to be.”