Ice Knight Alumni answer 3 very important questions:
1. Why did you choose Rutgers over other options you had during your college selection process?
2. What was your experience was like during the years you spent on campus as a student-athlete?
3. What opportunities & connections has Rutgers provided for you since graduation, and why was attending Rutgers the best decision you've ever made?
Mike DuHaime - Class of 1995: Partner at Mercury Public Affairs
1. I chose Rutgers because it was the best school available to me, not just for hockey but for academics. The well-rounded experience you get between education and athletics at a large and competitive university prepares you well for life after college. Any teammate of mine will tell you I was not good enough to make the team, but somehow I did and played on the 4th line for four years, earning an “A” on my jersey and two championship rings in the process. Hockey at Rutgers forced me to challenge myself in a way I never had before. Making the team (and staying on it as our talent-level and competition improved) helped develop a confidence in me that I can achieve what I would otherwise have thought not possible. Balancing academic and athletic challenges at a large university during such crucial years of development taught me lifelong skills I use today.
2. I don’t know if it would be possible to have a more fun and fulfilling experience in college than I had. Many of my best friends in life to this day were my Rutgers hockey buddies. I met the most important person in my life, my wife, on a random Thursday night at a Hockey House party. The hockey was extremely competitive and gave me an experience to travel more than I ever had and dramatically broaden my personal horizons.
3. Most importantly, I left Rutgers prepared to be a success professionally and connected to an amazing and supportive alumni network that I did not know existed when I was a student. I attribute a great deal of my success in life to my academic experience and athletic success at Rutgers. Also, the personal and professional relationships I have developed over time with other Rutgers alum have helped me countless times in my career. Also, Rutgers’ national reputation as a top-notch university continues to grow every single year.
Gil Schaffer - Class of 2011: Senior Coordinator of Hockey Operations at Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation
1. I chose Rutgers for many reasons. The school itself has a great reputation and that was always very important to me when looking at different Universities. I honestly liked the idea of attending and playing for the State University of NJ and remaining in-state. I immediately clicked with the coaching staff of Andy Gojdycz and Adriaan Klaassen which made it begin to feel like the right spot. Hockey was a huge factor in my decision and I believed in the program and the direction that those two had for it moving forward. I was drawn to helping be a part of the process of building the program up and elevating its status in the college hockey world. It all excited me and resonated. When I finally visited the campus, it all clicked for me. The campus, the people, the prior connection with the hockey staff, everything just felt right. It's a big reason why to this day I always trust my gut, it was the best decision I could've made for me.
2. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Rutgers and especially playing for the team. All of my best memories of school involve my teammates whether on the ice or on-campus. There has always been a great culture within Rutgers Hockey and although we all helped elevate the program to new heights and added our own unique aspects to the program we remained true to those who paved the way for us. The brotherhood feel and the history of the program really are special. Wasn't specifically looking for those things going in, but absolutely appreciated them while involved and now that I'm out. The entire package of RU (classes, team, campus, social scene) is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding in the end.
3. I was fortunate enough to gain an internship while in school, get hired part time immediately after graduation and then within a year be hired full-time and now be 5 years and one promotion into working for that same organization, Snider Hockey. Having attended Rutgers and specifically my involvement within the team helped me earn that initial internship that I have parlayed into my career to this point. Since then, I have been fortunate to hire and work with a few former teammates, work everyday with fellow RU alum Dennis Cunard, and have crossed paths with many others as well. When I look back at my time at Rutgers I look at everything as a whole and how much I gained from all of it. The lessons learned in and out of the classroom, the professors and coaches that truly helped me, the bond with my teammates, the friends I made, and all of the team's games, road trips, wins, losses parties, etc all helped shape me into who I am. As I said before, choosing RU was the best decision I could've made and I'm very grateful for everything it has given me.
T.J. Fiorillo - Class of 2012: Associate Producer at ACC Digital Network (Charlotte, NC)
1. When I first started considering RU, I was on the fence about sticking around to play juniors or going right to college. I wanted to go to a big school where I could get a great education, have a social life and continue to play hockey and Rutgers ended up being that place. I first got in touch with Coach Klaassen and then head coach Andy Gojdycz, and they sold me on an upstart program that was knocking on the door to Nationals. I traveled up to campus (I'm originally from suburban Philadelphia) and really liked everything that I saw. I settled into a good dorm situation on Busch my freshman year and was all in on Rutgers from that point forward.
2. I came to RU knowing literally one person. A youth hockey teammate that I grew up with was entering his sophomore year, so the hockey team was an immediate way to make 25 best friends. We played together, took classes together, lived together and of course partied together for four years. We made three consecutive trips to Nationals, from my sophomore through senior seasons. A year after graduating, the team won its first ever game in the tournament as they took down Navy. I watched happily in PA on FastHockey as my friends dominated the U.S. Naval Academy.
3. Rutgers was also huge for me in my sports media career. As far as internships go, you're equidistant from NYC and Philadelphia. Getting the perfect internship was pretty effortless. The place I interned with ended up hiring me right out of school. Rutgers prepared me for the real world and put me in a position to succeed. I got involved with a couple of other organizations during my time there and had a great job at the campus television station (RU-tv). My little brother is now enrolling at RU for the fall of 2016. He saw how much I enjoyed my time at Rutgers and with Rutgers Hockey, and it was something he wanted to become a part of. I used to give tours for Coach Klaassen to recruits and I always found myself closing with the same line, "Rutgers was the best decision I ever made" and even to this day I never second guess my decision to become a Scarlet Knight.
Matt Ruthberg - Class of 2013: Assurance Associate at PriceWaterhouseCoopers
1. To be honest, I did not know much about Rutgers as a school or the hockey program before enrolling. I had hopes and aspirations of playing hockey at the NCAA D1 level and did not consider club hockey or Rutgers at first. However, after talking with the coaches and spending some time at the practices I knew it would be a great place to get my education and continue playing elite hockey. The team had a great togetherness and the coaches truly cared. Also, I knew I was going to receive a top notch education, which was the most important factor.
2. It sounds very cliche, but I can honestly say my time at Rutgers was the greatest time of my life. I was able to achieve my goals and receive a degree in accounting, while playing the sport I loved at a very high level. The 4 years there are something I will always cherish and is a decision that I wouldn't trade for the world.
3. Attending Rutgers and playing Rutgers hockey allowed me to reach this point in my life. I was set up with a recruiter by a former teammate, and it led to a job right out of school. I also now have lifelong friends who were teammates of mine. I went into Rutgers not knowing what to expect and left with an extended family and great job.
Matt Couzens - Class of 1969: Owner of Horse Listeners Apple Orchard (formerly 32 years as Sales Executive at IBM)
1. During my senior year at Northfield Mount Hermon prep school, I was captain of our hockey team. I had been recruited by Cornell as well as West Point (I attended a summer hockey program run by West Point coach Jack Riley). The reason I chose Rutgers is because I felt I could play and contribute all four years. I wanted playing time and to play with a group of committed players. In addition, the curriculum at Rutgers was a match for what I wanted.
2. My experience at Rutgers for four years was phenomenal. I achieved many objectives, I met lifelong friends and shared in their success on many levels. I met my wife during college and my groomsmen at my wedding were coach Geof Gould and fraternity brother Dave Zimmerman. They have been lifetime friends who I still stay in touch with through all of life's journeys.
3. My experience at Rutgers assisted my with many coping skills. Not everything is handed to you on a platter in life. If we fall on difficult times we can either be a victim or take responsibility for ourselves and improve our lot in life. Rutgers gave me the tools to handle all of life's experiences. Late night practices, harsh realities of being a club sport and tough academics all played a role in getting me ready for the real world, and I am proud of it. I am most proud of the "Spirit of Rutgers Hockey" that perseveres through the ages, introduces us to some great individuals and provides some great memories of victory and defeat.
Justin Gelesky - Class of 2013: Doctor of Physical Therapy
1. I originally went to another school for Architecture because Rutgers did not offer the program. When I realized that Architecture wasn't for me, after my first year, I contacted my best friend, who happened to be on the Rutgers D1 team, and he told me how great it was. I then met with Coach Klaassen, which solidified my decision to transfer despite losing my full scholarship, and it was the best decision I have ever made.
2. My experience at Rutgers was second to none. I was apart of the Exercise Science program and would put the quality of their curriculum against any other program in the nation. The team itself was unbelievable. I had the privilege to live in the Hockey House on College Ave. for three years and everything about it was amazing. The team really feels like family when you're there and I have gained numerous life long friendships because of it. Not to mention making the National Tournament 4 years in a row.
3. Rutgers has the reputation of a top University in the world and having that on your resume will take you places. My accomplishments in doctoral work after graduating from Rutgers are a direct result from the University and everything it has to offer. Rutgers University and the Hockey team has given me so many opportunities and I was fortunate enough to have succeeded in them. It is a future goal of mine to give back to the University as a potential professor within the Exercise Science program or working with the Hockey team as a Physical Therapist/Strength Coach. Choosing Rutgers University and their Hockey team will be the best decision of your life.
Ryan Greeley: Ice Hockey Official for the USA Officiating Development Program
1. I had several offers during my last year of juniors, ranging from Division 1 club to Division 3 NCAA. I chose one Rutgers for two reasons: 1. The academics were far better than any of the Division 3 schools I was looking at and, 2. Because I wanted to go somewhere where I had an opportunity to play for a national championship. Rutgers was ranked #16 in the country at the time and gave me that opportunity.
2. I was honestly blown away by the campus, team and classes at Rutgers. It exceeded my expectations, no doubt. The campus life is unbelievable with the nightlife, the sports, entertainment, resources for school, etc. It's like living in a city, but each campus gives you a taste of something different. The team was the closest family I ever had in hockey. We did everything together...team meals, workouts, studying, etc. The experience with the team made my experience at Rutgers worth it.
3. Unfortunately, due to a serious injury, I didn't get the opportunity to finish my career at Rutgers, with school or hockey, but the connections and networks I've made just from a year and a half are incredible. Hockey wise, since Rutgers, I've done everything from coaching to scouting to refereeing, and Rutgers hockey and the coaches opened pathways to all of those outlets. Additionally, even though I didn't graduate from Rutgers, as soon as I mention Rutgers, or Rutgers hockey, people/employers automatically give me credibility, and that's something pretty special. I guess that's the nice thing about going to a school that gets a lot of attention on and off the ice.
Mike Bartilotti - Class of 2011: Surface Warfare Officer (Lieutenant) in the U.S. Navy
1. I chose to attend Rutgers because of it's academic reputation compared to the other schools I was interested in. Rutgers is recognized both inside and outside the United States as a top notch University.
2. My experience at Rutgers was awesome. My classes were always challenging but interesting, and the atmosphere around campus is very up tempo.
3. The best memories I have from college all involve playing on the team or hanging out with buddies from the team. Coming to Rutgers and playing hockey turned out to be the best decision of my early adult life.
Dennis Cunard - Class of 2012: Senior Coordinator of Hockey Operations at Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation
1. I went to county college for 2 years before transferring to Rutgers. I chose Rutgers because it is the best in state school with a hockey team. I went to a couple of practices and was offered a spot on the D2 team. I had a lot of great teammates and was very proud to be playing for one of the Rutgers teams.
2. Going to class and walking around campus at Rutgers was so much different from commuting to county college whenever I had class. The campus has so much history and there was always so much going on. Since Sports Management was my major, I was required to do an internship. Thankfully, with the great reputation that Rutgers University has, and with my playing experience, I was able to intern at Snider Hockey in Philadelphia.
3. I am currently a Senior Coordinator of Hockey Operations at Snider Hockey and have been a full-time employee since November of 2012. I have actually been back to Rutgers Career Fairs several times to represent Snider Hockey. Thinking back, going to Rutgers was the best choice because I was able to get my degree from a very prominent university while playing competitive hockey.
Gordon Bowen - Class of 2013: Executive Recruiter for Lucas Group (formerly Season Ticket Account Executive for the Houston Astros)
1. The reason I chose Rutgers is because although I had options to play NCAA D3 hockey, I felt that if I was going to be serious about my life after hockey I needed my college choice to have the following criteria: have a great academic record, have a large reach where I could make connections into my chosen industry, have a hockey program that could compete for championships (we won 3 conference titles and went to the National Championships for 4 straight years).
2. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything. The all-around experience was awesome...from campus life to academic life to hockey life. Campus wise, Rutgers is massive. However, since it is broken down into 5 separate campuses, you still can get a small college feel, especially if you live on Cook Campus like I did. Academic wise, Rutgers is known for being one of the best in the country. My major was Exercise Science, and I do not think there is a program better in the country than at Rutgers. The curriculum is fantastic, there are professors with major connections in the industry, and there are over 20 different professional sports teams within a 100 mile radius. Also, the athletic alumni working in sports from Rutgers is breathtaking, and a major advantage versus other schools. Hockey wise, the group that I played with are going to be my best friends for the rest of my life. It was probably the best experience I could have had in college and I know for a fact the culture at Rutgers is something we will always cherish.
3. I already touch on the alumni, but the connections I made at Rutgers are going to be able to help me in my career for the rest of my life. There are Rutgers alumni in every major sport in this country...NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and MLS. Rutgers is the best decision I've ever made because it delivered on not only a great college hockey experience, but also prepared me for life after hockey, which I think is most important.
Joe Rotella - Class of 2006: Teacher at Woodbridge High School, Varsity Ice Hockey Coach (9 years)
1. I chose to go to Rutgers University because of the outstanding tradition and the academic excellence for which the university is known.
2. My fondest memories are those with my teammates, and the bonds that we created over the course of four years. I always knew someone had my back, no matter what I was going through, and that was important to me. The hockey house location may change year to year, but the idea of it still holds true, and I had some of the best days of my life in that house with my teammates. I will always look back on those memories fondly, no matter where life takes me, and they will always bring a smile to my face.
3. Rutgers Hockey gave me the confidence to continue with hockey after I graduated. Whenever I tell someone that I played Ice Hockey for Rutgers University, they seem to respond very positively and in the hockey world my collegiate experience at this fine university has helped me secure numerous coaching jobs.