Brien Martin, Jr., the right wing for the top line on the co-op BG/H/W Stampede hockey team, back-checked Nov. 6 during a game in Hoffman Estates. He stole the puck and brought the puck back into the offensive zone, eluding every opponent for the co-op Kings team, featuring players from Jacobs, Huntley and other schools.
Martin then lofted the puck across ice to line mate Michael DeSalvo, who converted the easy goal.
DeSalvo tagged that tally as his "highlight goal" so far this season, his second on the varsity team that boasts players from Buffalo Grove, Hersey and Wheeling. DeSalvo, 16, who lives in Arlington Heights, is a junior at Buffalo Grove, one of five players representing the Bison.
DeSalvo stands 5-feet, 4 inches and only weighs 130-pounds -- the second-smallest player on the team, but also one of its three fastest players.
DeSalvo said his size, or lack thereof, "kind of helps me.
"All my life, I've always been the smallest guy on the ice, so I learned how to play around my size. I know my strengths and weaknesses, what I can do, what I cannot do. I know my limits."
Physical play is not his approach. Instead, he often uses his speed and quickness to elude defenders. "Being so small, I use my leverage, so people cannot knock me down as easily," he said.
"I really try to not make (my size) that big of a deal. Being small, I've learned to do different things on the ice (to my advantage), like get lower on my checks to kind of take their body out of the way without accounting for size, and more."
The left-handed shooting DeSalvo, who also was a sectional qualifier for Buffalo Grove's golf team, centers the Stampede line with Martin, a senior from Hersey on right wing; and junior Drew Downey from Wheeling on left wing.
"When people say (trash-talking comments) against me, especially about my size, I just want to score. I just try to score or make a nice pass to rub it in their face," said DeSalvo, who admits he regularly is asked if he's a freshman.
DeSalvo skated for the Stampede last season when the team advanced to the state championship game. He scored 12 goals and added 12 assists last season in 28 North Central Division league games. "The state (championship game) was a highlight, a great ride with a great team," DeSalvo said.
This season opened for the Stampede with an overtime championship game win over Barrington in the preseason Gator Cup.
The Stampede also has wins this season over Warren, Lake Forest, Crystal Lake South, and others.
"I've always had a good hockey sense, so I feel like I can get the puck to Martin and Downey," said DeSalvo, an assistant captain and team leader who often lets his on-ice play speak loudest to his teammates. "When others see me go in the corner, and the little guy wins the battle (for the puck), it gets others pumped up."
BG/H/W coach Bob Wagner said DeSalvo is, "one of our hardest working players at both ends of the ice."
DeSalvo said he doesn't mind the pressure that comes with his position. In fact, "I tend to do better under pressure," he said.
DeSalvo is following the skates of his older brother, Anthony, 19, now a sophomore at Purdue, who skated three varsity seasons for the Stampede.
"My whole goal, really, is to try to follow my brother's footsteps, and possibly pass him," the younger DeSalvo said. "My brother has taught me to work my hardest -- on the ice and in the classroom. He set the bar high when it came to sports and schooling."
DeSalvo and his BG/H/W teammates play host to Evanston on Saturday at the Twin Rinks Ice Pavilion in Buffalo Grove for the team's second annual charity fundraiser. The game has been labeled "Stick it to ... Hunger" and will be a fundraiser for the Wheeling Township Food Pantry. Game time is 7:10 p.m.
"It's great to give back," said DeSalvo, who noted that he and several teammates also will be volunteering this week at the pantry. "It makes me feel good that I can help out those who are less fortunate."
Last season, the Stampede's inaugural charity fundraising game, which benefitted the American Cancer Society, raised more than $2,200 -- far suprassing the event's goal of $500.
The team's goal this year is $2,000.