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#USPHLCommitments: Nashville Spartans Blueliner Micale Commits To Buffalo State University

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 

 

You can’t deny the power of a USPHL Showcase Series event for connecting colleges and players. It certainly worked wonders for the Nashville Spartans defenseman Austin Micale, an ‘03 from Hamilton, N.J. A second-year USPHL Premier blueliner, Micale found his muse in Music City, where he has put together an 85-point season from the blue line through just 42 games. It was at the 2024 USPHL Tampa Showcase that he first really started talking to the Buffalo State University coaching staff for whom he’ll be playing starting this fall. 

“I first started talking to Buffalo State at the January Tampa Showcase. The owner of my team, Zach Sabatini, reached out to me that Buffalo State would be in attendance and would maybe like to talk to me,” said Micale. “After our second game, I spoke with Dan Yustin. He told me that they ran an offensive style from the back end where the weak side defenseman joins the rush, and that they liked the offensive side of my game, and my involvement in breaking the puck out and on the rush.”

The move to Buffalo State next year will put Micale into the heart of what he considers to be a powerhouse factory in NCAA Division III hockey. 

“The most interest I had with Buffalo State was the fact that they are in the SUNYAC conference, which I believe is amongst one of the best in college hockey. When I first joined the Spartans, I told my coach that I was looking to study Sports Management in College, which Buffalo State does not have,” he said. “However, after talking with their Head Coach Steve Murphy, I learned that although they do not have Sports Management, their Business Program has many internships with surrounding pro teams in the area. This piqued my interest heavily, because that is what I am looking to do, break into the pro sports world, whether it be in business, or in hockey, to which Buffalo State can provide me with both.”

Micale will be heading to Buffalo State later in the summer essentially sight unseen. One day, the motor just wouldn’t turn over and his planned trip from his eastern New Jersey hometown into Upstate New York and out to its western edge was just not happening. 

“I was not able to visit campus, due to some car troubles that I experienced. However, I am going to make the trip up after the season to visit. Looking at pictures online and knowing a little about the SUNYAC schools, I was able to determine that it is a smaller campus which I liked,” he said. “Growing up around Rutgers, I really did not enjoy how large that campus was, even to just walk through – I always wanted a smaller campus style. I decided to make the commitment official because I felt I had a good opportunity to grow into a role on their team, and also get a very quality education that I think I will enjoy. It also helped that they were very interested in me from the beginning and were one of the few teams that kept in almost constant contact with me after first meeting and seeing me.”

Micale had a long and circuitous route to his stardom with the Spartans in this, their second season and one which may see them push their way into Nationals for the first time. He split time between Princeton High School and the Mercer Chiefs Midget program on his way up, along with stops playing for the Valley Forge Minutemen and Jersey Shore Whalers. It was with the Whalers in 2021-22 where he first got his taste of USPHL Premier hockey. A regular with the Whalers 18U team, he got called up for 14 games, scoring three points. After additional stops with the New Jersey Titans Midget program and Atlanta Capitals of the NA3HL, he signed on with Nashville. There, he was reunited with one of the USPHL’s most experienced players, Ronan Keenan. The Spartans forward first began in the USPHL Elite in 2018-19 with Tampa Bay, one year removed from skating alongside Micale in the Mercer Chiefs 15U program. Now, they are co-leaders of the Spartans with 85 points apiece. Additionally, Micale leads all Spartans in average ice time per game (25:04) and plus-minus (+69), while ranking third in blocked shots (34). 

“I have thoroughly enjoyed playing in Nashville this season. I do not believe that I could have found a better spot for my final year of eligibility. The developmental coaches that the organization has have helped me thoroughly in developing my game throughout the season. On the recruitment side, I have never had a coach and team owner act as true advisors for all of their players. They both did a very good job with contacting schools and getting them into contact with me, along with bringing in many different D3 schools to see our team play,” said Micale. 

“I first decided to join Nashville after I was cut from the Provo Predators [NCDC] this off-season, and after talking with Sabatini and Head Coach Liam Tully over the next week, and hearing about the facilities, and their success in the Southeast Division last year in their first year, it was clear to me this would be where I would complete my final junior season,” Micale added. “I also heard of the names of developmental/training coaches, Lubos Bartecko, Matej Ilencik, and Viktor Tikhonov, all having played high level hockey, and I figured if anyone knew what it took it would be them. They all have helped me immensely this season.”

In their first year in the Great Lakes Division, the Spartans rank sixth overall in the 62-team USPHL Premier. They very nearly won the Great Lakes Division after being in first at many mileposts during the season. They have a first round bye for the Great Lakes playoffs, which puts them just two wins away from potentially making their USPHL Nationals debut. 

“Our team is good. In my opinion, we have a real shot at going on a run in playoffs this year. We are still trying to iron out some D-zone and some of our details, while also adjusting to a few new players joining the team along with a few injuries,” said Micale. “If everything clicks at the right time and we get hot in our first series against, more than likely the Toledo Cherokee, I believe we have a very good chance this year.”

He’s been very happy with his decision to come back with the USPHL and its attendant draw for college scouts and coaches. He breaks down the aforementioned path that brought him back to a league that he says has helped him immensely to pave his path to Buffalo State. 

“My first year playing in the USPHL, I was mainly playing U18 for the New Jersey Titans, who at the time had just acquired the rights of the Jersey Shore Whalers. During the season, our Head Coach would send players to go play with the Premier team, whether it be to fill in for injuries, or just to get a taste of Junior Hockey. I enjoyed playing against the bigger and stronger guys as it gave me a taste of what it would be like playing Junior Hockey. 

“Coming back this year, after playing in the NA3, I can confidently say this league has many more scouts, and colleges reaching out to players and well run teams that move their players along,” Micale added. “I don’t think I could have received the commitment I did, had I decided to go back. We had the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the league. Playing in those games were some of the best I’ve experienced in Junior Hockey, and I can not wait to play some of them again at Nationals.” 

You have to love the confidence, and he will bring that confidence into his preparations for the NCAA level going forward the rest of the Spartans’ time on ice and then beyond to the brief off-season before he heads to Buffalo in late summer. 

“During this off-season, I am looking to improve on my strength training to be a stronger and faster hockey player next year. Knowing how my first year of Junior Hockey was, I can only imagine my first year playing college hockey, so I am going to be doing the best I can to make sure I am ready for that level,” he said. “I will also be continuing to improve my offensive game, while really honing in on my retrievals and first break out passes, and overall D-Zone play, to make sure I am ready on all sides of the puck next year. 

“I will be staying in Nashville and continuing to train with the coaches who have helped me all season, and many current/future NCAA athletes.”

The USPHL congratulates Austin Micale, his family, the Nashville Spartans and Buffalo State University on his college hockey commitment. 

 

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