After enjoying two non-consecutive terms with the North Stars, Chris Paliafito is the Grover Cleveland of Traverse City goalkeeping. And, after stints with three other clubs in the interim, he now knows where he’ll be spending the next four years: Sacred Heart University.
Paliafito, who has served 44 games between the pipes for the Stars between the 2007-08 and 2009-10 seasons, signed with the Pioneers, who play in the Atlantic Hockey Association, this week.
“I’m glad to finally have it decided,” said Paliafito, who spent time with Owatonna Express and Alexandria Blizzard between TC stops. “I had been talking with their coaches for a while now, so I knew there was some level of interest on their part. It’s pretty satisfying to know that I’ll get a chance to play at the college level and get a good education.”
The Shelbyville, Ky., native is 6-7-2 this season with the North Stars, with a 3.22 goals-against average and .889 save percentage in 16 appearances. He went 11-9-6 in 2007-08, with nearly identical averages.
“Chris came in back in 2007 and, along with (fellow goalie Brandon) Stephenson, really kind of stabilized our goaltending, and helped us get the program pointed in the right direction,” said Stars head coach Anthony Palumbo. “He’s a fierce competitor; he doesn’t like giving up goals.”
Paliafito was an especially key cog in January, when Drew Strandberg went down to injury, and he engineered a 3-0-2 run, helping keep the Stars in contention for the NAHL North Division title. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound backstop surrendered two or fewer goals in seven starts this year, and becomes the sixth Division I property on the current Stars roster. The others are Andy Huff (Ferris State), Kelin Ainsworth (Lake Superior State), Kyle Jean (LSSU) Tyler Marble (LSSU), Dan Radke (LSSU).
“It’s sometimes hard to come in as a freshman and command a huge role right away,” said Paliafito, who plans to study business at the private Fairfield, Conn., school. “But my plan is to come in and work hard, stay focused, and come to the rink ready to go every day.”
Paliafito says the rigors of junior hockey has helped prepare him for the road ahead.
“Playing at the highest levels of juniors can really be demanding, physically and mentally,” he said. “It’s a long, grueling season, and I think that helps when you do get to the next level.”
Paliafito is the 16th current of former Stars player to sign with a Division I program, and would be at least the 34th TC player to go on to play collegiately.
“We have a number of other guys drawing serious interest as well,” said Palumbo. “But everyone’s happy for Chris. He’s a great kid, and a great teammate, and we’re glad to see him get to play at the college level.”