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Economakos Joins Pro Team

RPI Senior Now Playing for Atlantic City of ECHL

Albany Times Union, March 15, 2005

Somewhere in South Carolina, Nick Economakos was just like any other college senior. He was in a car with buddies Kevin Croxton and Matt McNeely on Thursday en route to Florida, where they would meet RPI teammates gathered for spring break.

Then his cellphone rang. On the other end was Matt Thomas, coach of the East Coast Hockey League's Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies.

Stop. Turn around. Realize a dream.

While Croxton and McNeely steered toward sunshine, Economakos caught a flight from Charleston to Albany, picked up his car, drove to Atlantic City, signed a contract, immediately hopped on a bus and embarked on a five-day road trip. Just like that, the Engineers' co-captain became a pro hockey player.

There have been more calls since, many from sun-loving teammates.

"They're telling me what a great time they're having, but this is what I want to be doing," Economakos said from Dayton, Ohio, where the Bullies play tonight. "I'm a little sad that I can't be with the guys, but to be doing this now is really exciting."

"It's been something I've wanted to do my whole life."

Another RPI senior, defenseman Blake Pickett, has joined an ECHL franchise. Pickett will likely debut with the Trenton Titans tonight.

Teams have also expressed interest in Union senior captain Jordan Webb, but he has yet to decide whether he will play this spring or wait until next season.

Economakos has played in all three games since joining the team. "Everything is a lot faster. But you have to keep in mind they play so many more games here, so the guys are smart about picking and choosing when to use their speed," he said. "In college you can exert energy all the time because you play twice a week. Here, it's a more intelligent game."

Sunday night, he played in Dayton against the Bombers and former RPI teammate Scott Basiuk.

"Just like being at practice, I guess," Economakos said.

Economakos has spoken with his professors and plans to complete his degree this spring. He gave assurances that he "didn't go through three and a half years of school for nothing."

Economakos finished his RPI career with 30 goals and 50 assists in 124 games. Other ECACHL products on Atlantic City's roster are goaltender Trevor Koenig (Union) and Vince Macri (Brown).

Looking west: RPI assistant coach Frank Bretti confirmed he is a candidate for the Canisius job.

Canisius has received 25 applications for the position, many from Division I assistants. A decision is expected by mid-April.

Going permanent: According to multiple league sources, the one-year appointment of acting ECAC Hockey League commissioner Steve Hagwell will be made permanent this week. An announcement is expected Wednesday.

Hagwell, who has drawn high marks from league coaches for his communication skills, had served as ECAC associate commissioner under the old league structure.

Local ref: ECACHL referee Alex Dell, a Niskayuna attorney, will likely work this weekend's league championships at Pepsi Arena.

In what has been an arduous winter for officials throughout college hockey as a result of the NCAA obstruction initiative, Dell has been perhaps the league's most consistent referee. That was validated the last two weekends, as he worked the most competitive first-round (No. 9 Clarkson at No. 8 Union) and quarterfinal (No. 5 Dartmouth at No. 4 Vermont) series.

In the postseason, ECACHL officials supervisor Butch Bellemore has made a point of avoiding patterns in which referees are assigned to the same teams on consecutive weekends. If that holds this weekend, Dell would officiate the Colgate-Harvard semifinal.

Other likely candidates for the semifinals are Peter Feola and Tim Kotyra, who worked last year's NCAA title game.

Bellemore said he won't decide until Wednesday and wouldn't tip his hand. But that hasn't stopped coaches from inquiring.

"It's Monday, and they're asking me already," he said, laughing.