Bianculli a Catalyst on Defense for KP’s Hockey TeamJan 29, 2021 04:28PM ● By Ken Hamway
King Philip defenseman Rocco Bianculli has all the attributes to take his game to a higher level.
The 17-year-old senior, who was a Hockomock League all-star the last two years, plays hockey year-round — starting with the Warriors and finishing at the club level where he competes for the 95 Giants out of Attleboro. An assistant captain for KP this season, Bianculli has the perfect temperament to excel.
“The key to playing defense,’’ Bianculli says, “is to stay calm and composed, rely on your skills and maintain a high level of mental and physical toughness.’’
The Wrentham native also is fast, sees the ice superbly, has strong hands and has a high hockey IQ.
The Warriors’ coach, Paul Carlo, is quick to compliment his veteran defenseman, who’s scored 14 goals and compiled 32 assists for 46 points during his first three seasons. “Rocco is an offensive defenseman,’’ Carlo emphasized. “He rushes the puck and is great in transition. A quality skater and passer, he’s a dynamic competitor who’s got a scorer’s touch and sharp instincts.’’
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warriors are playing only eight games this season and at Local Town Pages deadline (Jan. 15) they had a 5-1 record. Bianculli, who missed the opener against Mansfield because of a knee injury, had three assists and three goals (hat trick against Oliver Ames) in five games.
“I was excited to get back on the ice and face Mansfield in our second game,’’ he said. “Getting the game-winning assist on a goal by Shawn Fitzpatrick meant the world to me. And, the hat trick was great. It was an awesome feeling.’’
Bianculli was delighted to return to action and he’s okay with the modifications hockey has undergone in dealing with the coronavirus.
“Our schedule has been reduced but I’m pleased the MIAA (Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association) has granted us a season,’’ Bianculli noted. “They’ve made changes (faceoff spacing, wearing masks, distancing on the bench, crowd limits, etc.) but rules are needed to beat the virus. It’s disappointing that there’s no Sectional or State tourneys this year but I understand the restrictions. We’ve got to beat this virus. That’s the top priority.’’
The 5-foot-8, 170-pounder missed tourney play his first two years by narrow margins but did get to experience playoff hockey last season when the Warriors bowed in their opener against archrival Franklin.
“We got beat by a big margin,’’ Bianculli said. “But, I liked the playoff atmosphere. There were lots of fans and we could hear our crowd cheering. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get there. You feel the pressure. We could have qualified if there was a tourney this year because our squad is experienced and talented. Lots of seniors, too.’’
Entering the season, Bianculli’s personal objectives were to play his best at all times and strive to earn MVP status in the league. “Last year I finished runner-up in the MVP voting,’’ he noted. His team goals are for the entire squad to compete hard every game and simply be glad they have the opportunity to play.
Bianculli showed early on just how effective he could be on offense from his back-line position. Two games remain very memorable — one against Foxboro and the other against Medway.
“We were tied against Foxboro in my sophomore year,’’ he recalled. “There were about five minutes left and I fired a wrist shot from about 12 feet out for the winning goal. Against Medway as a junior, I had a break-away goal, then scored another one from the point about 25 feet out. Unfortunately, we lost by two goals.’’
Although the virus has changed interscholastic athletics on many fronts, Bianculli, nevertheless, hasn’t let any alterations affect the way he views his team or his sport. “My top thrill in hockey at KP is being with my teammates and the coaching staff,’’ he emphasized. “Whether it’s at practice, a game, or at a pasta dinner, it’s been thrilling to be part of this program and to be with friends I’ve known since kindergarten.’’
Bianculli’s future will no doubt involve playing hockey in college. He could have skipped his senior year at KP and played junior hockey but he remained committed to KP.
“Rocco’s loyalty is a great example for many,’’ Carlo said. “Instead of playing junior hockey, he wanted to finish what he started at KP.’’
A good student, Bianculli plans on one more year of junior hockey after graduation before he signs on the dotted line to play in college. “I would never quit on my teammates,’’ he said about staying with KP. “The players are my best friends and coach Carlo has helped me in so many different ways. He’s got a big heart, he’s a great motivator and he cares about his players. I couldn’t leave. I wanted to be part of the team.’’
Bianculli’s blood lines probably play a role in his dedication to the game and his team. His father (Joe) and two uncles (Mike and Matt) not only were Bay State Conference all-stars in hockey at Milton High, but they also were inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame. His mom (Colleen) keeps the BSC family theme strong because she was a cheerleader at Norwood.
“All of them watch me play at KP and they’re all very encouraging,’’ he said.
Now, Bianculli has an opportunity to encourage his twin brothers, who play middle school hockey and also compete for the 95 Giants. “They’re seventh graders,’’ he said. “And, they’ll be better than me. I work out with them and they take advice well.’’
Relying on a competitive philosophy that focuses on reaching his potential and enjoying his athletic experience, Bianculli says that “if those two things occur, then winning will take care of itself.’’
Bianculli also is acutely aware that sports, specifically hockey, can teach excellent life lessons. “I’ve learned how to care about a teammate that may be down and out,’’ he noted. “Sports teach you how to lead and to be a good team player. The big lesson may be right now with COVID-19. We’ve learned how to deal with adversity.’’
As the Warriors’ assistant captain, Bianculli leads by example and by being supportive. And, as for his play on defense, he’s where he wants to be.
“I feel like I’m a quarterback,’’ he emphasized. “Especially if I make a crisp pass and get an assist. Rushing the puck, getting it up ice and creating scoring chances are what I really enjoy.’’
Watching Rocco Bianculli compete would create enjoyment for any hockey fan.
Because he’s the total package.