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Hockey: Mike Vennetti Jr. at center of Providence’s impressive run

Mike Vennetti Providence | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

Mike Vennetti, of Providence | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:28AM



Mike Vennetti Jr. often has heard the stories over the years of how it feels to win the Kennedy Cup.

His dad, Mike Sr., was a member of the 1983 St. Laurence team that claimed the Catholic League’s top postseason prize.

Mike Jr., a senior on Providence’s top-ranked hockey team, finds himself in position to match his father’s feat. Vennetti and the Celtics are just six wins away from experiencing the same thrill.

“It’s something my dad’s never forgotten,” the younger Vennetti said. “He always said it was a great experience and how he hopes I can experience it also.”

If Providence is going to cap its remarkable season with its first Kennedy Cup, Vennetti likely will be in a starring role. The 5-foot-7, 145-pound center may not physically stand tallest. However, his contributions to the Celtics’ 49-4-4 season have been impressive.

He’s scored 40 goals — including 14 on the power play — and dished out 21 assists in 47 games. He’s been whistled for just two penalty minutes all season, a testament more to his discipline than an unwillingness to mix it up physically.

From a pure strength standpoint, Vennetti is proof dynamite does come in small packages.

“He’s one of the strongest kids on the team,” Providence coach Nick Iaciancio said. “He benches 225 pounds. He can do 30 pull-ups in 30 seconds. He’s put a lot of time in the weight room. You can’t put a value on what he means to the team.”

His strength isn’t by accident. Vennetti and many of his teammates spent extra time conditioning in preparation for this season. The additional work has paid off handsomely.

“We’ve worked out more, lifted weights and did speed and agility training,” Vennetti said. “I enjoy working out. It’s the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

When the Celtics need to win a big faceoff, Iaciancio generally calls on Vennetti to win the draw. Vennetti also has had a knack for coming through in the clutch, as shown by his seven game-winning goals.

His ability to rise to the occasion is exceeded only by his desire to succeed.

“My dad has told me to always do my best,” Vennetti said. “Not just in hockey, in everything.”

There’s no debating which team performed best in the Catholic League during the regular season. The Celtics finished a remarkable 21-0-1.

However, Vennetti, who grew up playing on the Orland Vikings, would like Providence to add a Kennedy Cup and a state championship to its list of accomplishments.

“Going undefeated in the Catholic League is a highlight for me,” said Vennetti, an Orland Park resident and Century Junior High graduate. “But it would be pretty amazing to win the Cup and state. It’s a pretty big goal. We’ve got to come out ready to play in the playoffs. It’s now or never.”



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