Hockey teammates favor the underdog Giants
By Tom Williams
With six Youngstown Phantoms having connections to Massachusetts, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure which Super Bowl team will get the most cheers at team gatherings on Sunday.
Surprise — it’s not the New England Patriots.
Take forward J.T. Stenglein who has connections to New York and Boston. The 18-year-old hails from Greece, N.Y., about two hours from New York City. Stenglein says it’s a place where there are fans of the New York Giants, New York Jets and even the Buffalo Bills.
The second-year Phantom has committed to attend the University of Massachusetts located in Lowell, about 20 minutes outside of Boston.
“Since I’m from New York, [this game] is kind of a conflict of interest,” admitted Stenglein, a Giants fan growing up. He’s sticking with quarterback Eli Manning’s team.
“I try not to be a Bills fan because they never win,” said Stenglein, adding that teammate Stephen Collins (Pittsford, N.Y.) also “follows the Giants pretty heavily.”
His prediction for Sunday’s rematch of Super Bowl XLII?
“I don’t go to Lowell yet, so Giants, 28-24” Stenglein said.
Austin Cangelosi, who has committed to Boston College, says he’ll be cheering for the Giants even though the player from Estero, Fla., has no connection to the Big Apple.
“I went to prep school for two years in Massachusetts — everybody loved the Patriots so I rooted against them,” Cangelosi said. “The Patriots are always good — I just want to see someone else win.”
Cangelosi foresees a blowout.
“Giants, 27-7,” Cangelosi said. “You can’t [spell] elite without Eli.”
Not everyone going to college in Massachusetts is against Tom Brady’s team. Defenseman Mike Gunn from Livonia, Mich., will attend Northeastern University in Boston.
“I’m hoping the Patriots avenge that loss,” said Gunn of the Giants’ 17-14 Super Bowl upset four years ago. His prediction: “Patriots, 23-17.”
Second-year forward Ryan Belonger is suffering from Super Bowl withdrawal. A native of Green Bay, Wis., Belonger, who also will attend Northeastern, is still dealing with the Packers’ 37-20 loss to the Giants three weeks ago.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” said Belonger about Sunday’s game. “I really don’t care who wins when my Packers aren’t in it.
“I guess I was a little surprised,” Belonger admitted, of the Packers’ ouster after a 15-1 season. “There’s always a chance that you’ll lose a game.
“Going through the season, I thought they were invincible, winning every game,” Belonger said. “And then I watched them lose to Kansas City [on Dec. 4] and I was kind of scared [then] that they [might] not go all the way.”
Forward Alex Gacek grew up in Dracut, Mass., but will attend Miami University in Oxford.
Phantoms captain Mike Ambrosia is from Chatham, N.J., and will attend Princeton along with defenseman Kevin Liss, a Steelers fan from Pittsburgh.
Ambrosia spoke the most passionately about Sunday’s game.
“I’ve actually been a Giants fan my whole life so it’s been a pretty exciting year,” Ambrosia said. “They had a rough patch in the middle of the season but they finished strong.
“In all sports, that’s all it takes — to have a strong finish. And they are a pretty scary team right now so it should be a good game.”
Ambrosia called Super Bowl XLII “an awesome game — I have great memories of that night so I’m looking forward to watching this one, for sure.”
Because goaltenders are noted for having quirky personalities, Toronto’s Matt O’Connor, who will play for Boston University, has a different take.
“I honestly love the commercials, that whole experience,” O’Connor said.
“One thing I like about the Super Bowl is that it’s a celebration of sports,” O’Connor said. “It’s unbelievable to see the emotion and fan support.”