L/A Nordiques defender Patrick Romano, far left, and goalie Michael Errico defend as Jersey Shore’s Michael Gulawsky, right, just misses a pass in a game during the 2017-18 season at the Colisee in Lewiston. Justin Pelletier/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

The perfect teammate.

Those words describe former L/A Fighting Spirit (2016-17) and L/A Nordiques (2017-18) defenseman Patrick Romano, who died Saturday morning in a structure fire in Niagara Falls, New York.

Romano, 24, of Toms River, New Jersey, was a student at nearby Niagara University, where he was studying sports management and was member of the school’s ACHA club hockey team. He also helped the school’s athletic department livestream sporting events.

“Pat was an extremely uplifting individual,” Cam Robichaud who coached Romano when he was in Lewiston. “He had a way about him to make others around him feel good about themselves. It’s an unique characteristic where you can put your own life situation aside and take care of others around you. It didn’t matter if he was having a good day or bad day, on ice or off the ice, he always went out of his way to make sure he was a light in someone else’s day.”

Caleb Labrie, Romano’s teammate during both seasons, remembers the relationship Romano had with his mom.

“All of us feel horrible for his family,” Labrie said. “Pat had a relationship with his mom that we all envy because it didn’t matter what we are doing, where the game was, he was hugging his mom. She was always around the rink; she came to every game. She raised an awesome young man, and I sympathize because I had my mom in my life growing up. (My mom and I) were talking about it the other night how crazy it is and how sad of a situation it is.”

Robichaud and Labrie, who are both assistant coaches with the Twin City Thunder, found out about Romano’s death just prior to the Thunder’s NCDC semifinal game against the New Jersey Hitmen on Saturday evening.

Romano first came to Lewiston for the 2016-17 season to play for the Fighting Spirit, and tallied two goals and eight assists, along with 146 penalty minutes. The following season, when the Fighting Spirit became the Nordiques, he had a goal, seven assists and 142 penalty minutes in 40 games.

Labrie said he learned how to fight from Romano.

“At least twice a week, me and him would practice fighting, throughout the season, because I was someone who was never taught (how to fight),” Labrie said. “He was a guy who was so good at it. He would always teach me stuff after practice. If I remember correctly, he ended up scoring a goal in the first game of the year where I gave him a pass against Long Beach (Sharks). The first thing he said to me was, ‘I will keep you teaching you how to fight as long as you let me keep scoring goals.’”

Robichaud will remember another game against the Long Beach when he told Romano not to get a game misconduct because then he would be suspended for having too many.

“He was doing a good job keeping even-keeled and just playing,” Robichaud said. “Then there was some hits that took place in the game, and I could see he started to stir up a little bit. I spoke to him again and we got (to a later point) in the game and there was a blatant check from behind that led into a scrum. Pat Romano is skating by the bench and he just looks at me and we made eye contact. I didn’t have to saying anything he knew, ‘Yup, Cam is letting me go.’ He just jumped in there. And that was him, putting himself above the team, recognizing, ‘I am going to get suspended for this, but it’s more important for me to stand up for the team and my peers.’”

Robichaud and Labrie each said the two teams Romano was part of were close. They still keep in contact through a group chat.

Just last week, Labrie said, the players were reminiscing about their time in Lewiston.

“Last week, we were all talking about life, stuff like that, sending flashbacks of our playoff run (in 2017-18) beating the (Northeast) Generals, us all celebrating in the locker room together,” Labrie said. “Pat was just sending pictures of different memories we had that year. Obviously, within a week, it’s horrible how it changed. I truly think that group is the closest group of guys I have ever been with.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up by former L/A teammate Kyle Secor to help pay for Romano’s funeral expenses.

NORDIQUES TICKET INFO

The Maine Nordiques have announced ticket information for the 1,000 fans who will be able to attend each of this weekend’s games against the Johnstown Tomahawks at the Colisee.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. both nights. Friday night’s game will be free, while Saturday’s tickets will cost $5 for general admission. Fans can sit wherever they like both nights, but they must practice social distancing by keeping a 6 feet distance from others throughout the arena.

Masks must be worn at all times throughout the venue. Those not following the mask protocols will be asked to leave.

OWENS IS STAR OF WEEK

Stefan Owens of the Maine Nordiques was named NAHL East Division’s second star of the week after scoring four points in three games against the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks.

He had an assist in a 3-2 win Friday and two goals in a 4-3 victory Saturday. He added another goal in a loss Sunday.

Owens currently has five-game point streak, during which he has tallied six goals and two assists.

LESLIE COMMITS TO AMHERST

The Twin City Thunder goaltender Connor Leslie committed earlier this week to play at Amherst College for next season.

Leslie, a 20-year-old from Leesburg, Virginia, played for the Thunder’s National Collegiate Development Conference team and went 5-8-3 with a 3.20 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage this season.

“He’s a very solid, serious and technically sound goaltender that’s competitive,” Robichaud said. “I always joke with him that I’ve never seen a goaltender get hit in the head in practice more than he has, ever. To his credit he never gets upset, he never leaves the net, he adjusts, he stays in there and fights through it.”

Lesie becomes the fourth player to play for the Thunder to commit a NESCAC school, joining defensemen Jack Gilligan (Bowdoin) and Eamon Dohenty (Trinity College), as well as forward Nick Rashkovsky, who later was traded to the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs but committed to Williams College while playing for the Thunder.

“(Leslie) was a big part of this year’s group,” Robichaud said. “We had a great tandem in net (with Devon Bobak). He’s a well-mannered, educated individual, and finding the right fit academically as well as athletically was extremely important to him.”

THUNDER TENDER DEFENSEMAN

Earlier this week, the Thunder announced the signing of 17-year-old defenseman Dino Mannetta to a tender.

The 6-foot-3, 216-pound Wading River, New York native had seven goals and 18 assists in 54 games with Boston Hockey Academy 18U this season.

“He skated with us a week before we left for the (semifinals),” Robichaud said. “He’s a big, big boy, tall and strong, great first pass, (plays) with his heads up. He’s a smooth skating individual that really has a heavy shot.”

Mannetta becomes the second player from Boston Hockey Academy to join the Thunder organization, joining forward Spencer Hirsch, who was drafted by the Thunder in the NCDC Future’s Draft this winter.

A tender is a contract that gives a team a player’s USPHL NCDC rights, and the player cannot be drafted or signed by another NCDC team. The player, however, can sign with a team in another junior league.


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