After four successful seasons at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts, Tecci turned down a few NCAA Division III hockey offers, after being talked into trying-out for the expansion Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the Tier II North American Hockey League by a friend.
He went in not expecting much but shined at their main camp and was one of the three goaltenders chosen out of over 40 goaltending prospects.
Tecci played in just six games with the first-year Fighting Falcons, before he, along with about 10 other players, were eventually cut nearly 1/3 of the way through the season.
Tecci returned home to Henderson, Nevada to be with his family and think things over, before eventually getting into contact with the Bakersfield Jr. Condors (now Ogden Mustangs) of the Western States Hockey League and then-Head Coach Jamie Cooke, who asked the 6’3” 195 pound goaltender to suit-up for his struggling squad.
Not concerned with records or their place in the standing, Tecci agreed and packed up again, this time for Central California.
Tecci stormed into Bakersfield and provided a huge boost in net, starting 10 games the rest of the way, while appearing in eight more in mop-up duty. Over the 18 total contests, Tecci sported a goals against average of 3.98, save percentage of .903, while playing for a team that only won nine games all season.
The numbers don’t exactly jump off the screen but Tecci stood on his head while seeing well-over 40 shots per night in a Jr. Condors uniform, while also battling lingering injury issues nearly the entire time.
Last summer, Tecci bounced around numerous NAHL camps and played well enough to make a few teams but was continually told that he was “too-old” in junior hockey terms, as many teams prefer to develop 16 year-old prospects rather than take-on a 20 year-old, even if they happen to be at a higher skill level and give the team a better chance to win.
Tecci took it in stride however and wound up back in the WSHL this season, as he hooked on with the Long Beach Bombers.
Even though his team has struggled at times, Tecci has not gotten frustrated, while proving himself as one of the top goaltenders in the WSHL.
In 20 games played on the season, Tecci’s numbers may fool you, as he is just 5-12-0 with a goals against average of 4.35 and a sub-.900 save percentage. What you won’t find on the stat sheet however, is how often Tecci has kept his team in games they should not have been close in, while drawing the praise of his entire organization.
He is not concerned with his own statistics however, as many young players happen to be, “To me it’s not about putting up numbers, it’s about giving my team the best chance to win and I think I do that.” Said Tecci during a phone interview.
The biggest sign of his prowess came during his homecoming, at the All-League Showcase in Las Vegas, as Tecci played well in front of many of his family and friends. Despite a couple of losses, Tecci was swarmed by numerous college hockey scouts after each game and received offers from many of them.
Even while running into a bit of bad luck, Tecci has never let it get to him and that all paid off last Monday, when he got a chance to live out every hockey players’ dream.
With All-Star goaltender Jonathan Quick in transit back to Los Angeles after spending the weekend in Ottawa, Ontario for the NHL All-Star Game festivities, Kings’ assistant coach Jamie Kompon, in need of a goaltender to fill-in, got on the phone and got into contact with Tecci’s goaltending coach, James Jensen
When Jensen approached Tecci with the offer, Salvatore immediately thought it was a joke, “James (Jensen) called me and told me the Kings want me to come out to practice. I was a bit taken-back but figured he was joking, so I didn’t even really react.”
Once he found out it was far from a practical joke, big Sal was ecstatic and quickly got on the phone with his parents, who took the first flight out of Las Vegas to watch their son skate with some of the top players in the world.
Tecci showed-up outside the Kings’ practice facility last Monday and was met there by Kompon, who gave him a tour of the Kings’ luxurious facilities.
“I though maybe I’d have my own little room off to the side but they gave me the tour of the locker room and let me dress in Quick’s stall.” Said a surprised Tecci.
Tecci got to meet the various team staff and coaches before settling in and preparing for the practice.
As the Kings players began filing in, Tecci sat on the couch watching television, “They were so confused when the walked in and most of them had to double-take, wondering who I was. Once I introduced myself they were awesome, down to earth guys.”
Unlike most So-Cal hockey players, Tecci admittedly couldn’t recognize many, if any, of the Kings players due to the fact that he is a Bruins fan, “I knew Kopitar by his face but that was about it. If they were Bruins players I could have named them all.” Tecci said while laughing.
Tecci stepped out onto the ice for his first-ever NHL practice and immediately was surprised by the size of the crowd, “The crowd for the practice was crazy but the amazing thing to me was the pace of the practice, from drill-to-drill, it was incredible.”
Tecci got his feet wet with a shooting drill, in which he claims to have allowed only one goal, a good start for someone who a week before was seeing shots from some of the WSHL’s best and was now looking at some of the world’s best.
The team then broke off into a scrimmage, with his team consisting of the bottom two lines going against the top two lines and top goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier.
Tecci stood strong during even-strength but was beaten a few times on a 5-on-3 power play drill, “They were just so quick with the back-door play, and I couldn’t get across in time.” Said Tecci.
Late in the practice, Kings’ leading scorer Anze Kopitar had a little fun with Salvatore. After the perennial all-star beat him with a glove-side wrist shot, he threw a good-hearted celebration, to laughs from his teammates.
Tecci sums up his experience and great attitude best, “The last few seasons have been tough at times but this was definitely the best hockey experience of my life and worth it all.”
Before leaving, Tecci shook the hand of Head Coach Darryl Sutter and thanked him for the opportunity, hoping one day, he might be able to return again.
Good things continue to lie ahead for Tecci however, as after he finishes up his final season of junior hockey. Salvatore is set to head east again, as he plans to enroll at Worcester State University in Massachusetts and tend crease for the Lancers in the fall.
Salvatore Tecci is a perfect example of how hard work and a good mind-set can pay-off in the long run.
Story by Brent T. Maranto. Photos courtesy of David Sheehan.