Congratulations to Michael Mancinelli for committing to Arizona State University. Michael is an alum of the TPH Center of Excellence program in Detroit. Again, congratulations and best of luck for the remainder of your USHL season and your transition to the college game.

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Johnstown Tomahawks are proud to announce that team captain Filips Buncis has committed to play Division I hockey at Arizona State University for the 2017-18 season.

Buncis, a native of Riga, Latvia, has played 124 games with the Tomahawks in three seasons. The 6-3 forward has scored 71 career points (21 goals, 50 assists) and was named the first European captain in Johnstown hockey history in September 2016.

He represented Latvia at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto earlier this season and was named to the NAHL Selects team at the 2017 Top Prospects Tournament in Plymouth, Mich. in February.

For Buncis, the chance to play Division I hockey at a burgeoning program like Arizona State is a “new challenge.”

“I really liked the coaching staff, the campus and I saw it as a new challenge for me to help build a new Division I program,” Buncis said. “I believe Arizona State is a great fit for me. They are building a great program there.”

Buncis will be joining fellow countryman and Aston defenseman Gvido Jansons with the Sun Devils in 2017-18.

“I grew up with him and we are great friends,” Buncis said. “I will be cool to play on the same team with at ASU.”

In three short seasons, Buncis has established himself as a fan favorite in Johnstown, place where Buncis will look back on fondly.

“It has been an unbelievable three years here in Johnstown,” Buncis said. “Johnstown is a great hockey town with the best fans in the league. I am really glad I spent three years in Johnstown.”

Buncis also had high praise for the Tomahawks coaching staff.

“They have been a huge part of my development and helped me prepare for the next level,” Buncis said. “They trusted me with the captaincy this season and that has helped me grow as a player and person this season.”

Located in Tempe, Ariz., the Arizona State Sun Devils are a newcomer to NCAA Division I hockey as the program transitioned to Division I play starting in 2014-15. They currently compete as an Independent with plans to join a conference in 2017-18.

Tomahawks head coach, Mike Letizia, was proud of his captain for announcing his commitment.

“I could not be prouder of our captain Filips Buncis on committing to Arizona State,” Letizia said. “Filips has been one of the most decorated players in our team’s history with all the international competition he has represented his country in, being the first European captain in Johnstown hockey history and now becoming a Division I hockey player.”

Letizia commented additionally that Buncis is dedicated to the Tomahawks and the community.

“Since he has been with the Tomahawks, he has grown his game tremendously through his hard work and dedication to our hockey club,” Letizia said. “He has been a fantastic leader for this year’s team. Filips will be able to help build the tradition of ASU hockey, and I firmly believe the best is yet to come for this outstanding young man.”

In addition to the many accolades he has earned while a Tomahawk, Buncis will be departing for Latvia to attend the Team Latvia World Championship team camp in hopes of making the official roster for the  2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany and Paris.

“I will be practicing with the best players in Latvia, basically my idols growing up,” Buncis said.

The tournament begins May 5 and concludes May 21.

Buncis said he plans on coming back to lead the Tomahawks into the Robertson Cup playoffs.

“I want to win it all with this team,” he said. “I know we can do it. I want to bring the cup back to Johnstown!”

Johnstown returns to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena March 17-18 for a St. Patrick’s Green Out Weekend. The team will wear specialty Irish jerseys against the Aston Rebels presented by the Holiday Inn.

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By @MichaelCaples –

Max Sasson wanted this story to start with a message to young hockey players in the same spot he once was.

Keep working, even if you aren’t playing for the team you want.

“Before I start, I want to say for all the kids who are worried that they didn’t make a 14U team,” Sasson told MiHockey, “I did not make one top team before this year started.”

Sasson didn’t let his team situation get in the way of his hockey dreams. The 2000 birth-year player kept working, and this year, he seized the opportunity to play for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies midget minor team.

“OJG is the only place I could have played u16,” Sasson said.

Now, he’s telling MiHockey about why he picked the University of Maine for his college hockey career. Sasson has thrived with OJG, leading his team with 38 points in 31 games (as listed on the Tier 1 Elite League website). The Total Package Hockey Center of Excellence student said he found the ‘perfect fit’ at Maine.

“I picked Maine because when I went on a visit, I felt right at home,” Sasson said. “It was just a perfect fit and I knew right away.”

He’s still a few years away from suiting up for the Black Bears, but he said he’s excited to have the chance to one day play college hockey.

“I am beyond excited to play college hockey,” Sasson said. “I knew once I went to the game at the Harold Alford arena in Maine that it was a easy decision to go to college. The atmosphere, playing in front your friends, and studying what you choose that’s why I am playing college hockey.”

“We’re very proud of Max – a great example of how hard work pays off,” said TPH Detroit director of hockey Brandon Naurato. “He has fought through adversity to better himself and better his chances of becoming a college student-athlete. Now, he’s one step closer to earning his degree while playing D1 college hockey.”

Congratulations to TPH Detroit Center of Excellence student-athlete Mitch Miller on his commitment to Miami University.

The Honeybaked U16 standout is the 16th TPH Detroit CoE student to commit to an NCAA Division I school since 2014.

The 6-foot, 15-year-old Miller has 10 points in 18 games with Honeybaked in his first midget minor season. Miller previously starred for Compuware’s bantam program, where he averaged more than a point per game in a two year span. Miller has also competed for TPH in the 2015-16 U15 World Selects Invite and also tallied three points in three games during the USA Hockey Select 15 camp

Miller joins Tino Passarelli as the second TPH Detroit CoE student-athlete to commit to Miami. Congrats to Mitch on his commitment!

Congratulations to TPH Detroit Center of Excellence student-athlete Carson Riddle on his commitment to Western Michigan University.

The Belle Tire U16 star is the 15th TPH Detroit CoE student to commit to an NCAA Division I school since 2014.

The Holly, Mich., native and 5-foot-9 forward has been lighting it up this season, his first one in midget minor. Through 24 games Riddle has posted 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists), which ranks second on his team. Riddle also leads his team in power play goals with three.

Riddle joins Xan Gurney as the second TPH Detroit CoE student-athlete to commit to the WMU program. Congrats to Carson on his commitment!

Congratulations to TPH Detroit Center of Excellence student-athlete Valentino Passarelli on his commitment to Miami University.

The Honeybaked U16 standout is the 14th TPH Detroit CoE student to commit to an NCAA Division I school since 2014.

The 5-foot-9 forward has perennially been a star player for the Honeybaked program and has posted eight points in 12 games this season according to Eliteprospects. Passarelli was also drafted by the Fargo Force in the 2016 USHL Futures Draft.

Congrats to Tino on his commitment!