The Chilliwack Chiefs hope hockey bloodlines run deep in the Esposito family, with Mark Esposito signing on this week.
The younger brother of former Chief Luke Esposito, Mark differs from his sibling in a significant way.
Where Luke played forward, and finished fourth in league scoring during the 2012-13 season (55-17-54-71), his brother is a defenceman who spends far more time keeping the puck out of his own net.
“The defense core was a major area we wanted to improve for next season and the signing of Mark is part of that process,” said new Chiefs head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic. “He is a very reliable player and extremely attentive to the defensive side of the puck.”
Esposito spent the last two years playing for the Brunswick School Bruins, a high school squad in Greenwich, CT.
“Ever since my brother tried out for the Chiefs two years ago, I’ve wanted nothing more than to be a Chilliwack Chief,” he said in a news release. “I love the town, the people and everything involved in the tradition of the Chiefs. There is an unbelievable culture within Chilliwack and I felt I became part of the Chiefs family two years ago.”
Tatarnic noted that Esposito is already drawing interest from NCAA teams, and he, like his brother, may be a one-year player in Chilliwack. Luke jumped from the Chiefs to the NCAA’s Harvard Crimson this season.
Tatarnic did land a player this week who should be more than one-and-done.
Sixteen year old Dennis Cholowski is another addition to the blueline after spending last year with Abbotsford’s Yale secondary school hockey academy.
A Langley native, Cholowski snuck into one game with the Chiefs last season, and is thrilled to make the full-time leap to junior A hockey.
“Getting to play in the teddy bear toss game last year was a great experience and the fans created a party-like atmosphere,” the teenager said. “When I was seven years old, (former Chiefs head coach) Harvey Smyl told me that I would be a Chief one day. Now that the dream has become a reality I couldn’t be happier.”
Despite breaking his arm and hand last season, Cholowski had a memorable year.
He collected 16 points in 12 league games and led his team to a Canadian Sports School Hockey League title. Cholowski collected six points in the last two games, wins over the Okanagan Hockey Academy and Pursuit of Excellence.
While some coaches are loathe to insert fresh-faced newbies into the lineup, Tatarnic said Cholowski will get plenty of play.
“I believe if we make a commitment to a younger player, its our responsibility to play them,” he said. “I’ve had young players before, like Ryan Tesink in Woodstock.”
Tesink played 44 games for Tatarnic’s Slammers in 2009-10, netting 10 goals and 29 points, and went on to be a sixth round draft pick of the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues.
“If he’s a player I sat in the press box, the Blues wouldn’t have seen him for the first time playing for me,” the coach noted.