Photo by Rena Laverty
Growing up, Jacob Tortora heard just about everything in regard to his smaller stature.
But in the end, he realized that he needed to use his heart and an all-out effort to make for up for his size. As his strength has caught up, it’s one of the biggest reasons for the difference between last year and this year on the ice with the U.S. National Team Development Program.
“My strength and the team’s overall strength have improved,” the 5-foot-7, 163-pound forward stated. “So this year [on the Under-18 team], we are winning way more battles especially in the USHL.”
He credits the spring training last May as a big part of the team’s overall success.
“It has helped so much. We did a lot of lifting and training. We were in there every day and working hard at it,” stated Tortora.
In addition, some of the drills they have worked on are helping him too as he has 14 goals and 31 points in 40 games this season.
“The Slip T angle and the trinket drills are some of the best ones,” he said. “There are pads in both drills that you have to go around on your way to trying to score. You are getting some resistance.”
In addition, he is working with first-year head coach John Wroblewski, who played for the NTDP from 1997-99. “Coach Wrobo” has given him some perspective on this season.
“He knows what everyone is going through since he has been there previously,” said Tortora. “When we are tired, he knows to give us an off day or go easy on us, or he knows to push us harder. It is definitely good.
“Coach Wrobo is very serious and that is what we need this year. I think he has helped us. I think we can win the championship now.”
Plus, he has taken one valuable lesson away from the coaching staff.
“There is a process. You have to go through the little things, work on them every day and it will help in the long run,” said Tortora on the advice, which has come in handy as he bounces back from an illness.
The Victor, New York native is really proud of the U18s’ first two international tournament wins, but there is one more that he wants — the IIHF Under-18 World Championship in April. When there’s international competition, Tortora feels the stakes are always higher.
“We didn’t too well last year so getting the first two tournament wins was great and hopefully, we will get the third one in Slovakia,” he said. “Playing Sweden and Russia is always a big match up. I love playing against them. Sweden is really tough and they play a lot like us. We have a rivalry against Russia and it always seems to be a chippy game when we play against them.”
This is all part of the heart and hard work that Tortora needs to do to have success. He knows exactly what this team needs to do to get ready for the U18 Worlds.
“We need to work on the little things,” he stated. “We need to show up ready to play some hockey and get better and stronger in the weight room.”
Playing the college games has really helped Tortora improve his game and he has two highlights from the season.
“The games have helped us,” he explained. “They are bigger and stronger than us right now but we did put up a good fight. It makes us stronger and we ready for our own age group after playing against the older guys.
“Playing Michigan was so much fun [a 6-3 loss on Nov. 18] — the atmosphere was great; it was a bright rink and the fans were loud. Minnesota-Duluth was also very fun and it was our first college win [2-1 on Oct. 22].”
Tortora, who is committed to play at Boston College next year, realized it was ultimately an easy decision for him on where he wanted to continue his collegiate career.
“The coaching staff is great,” he said. “They have a history of small guys playing there and have had success at BC so I really liked that aspect. If they can do it, I can do it. They had the same opportunity and I can see what they have done.”
Two of his favorite players growing up were former BC and current Calgary Flame Johnny Gaudreau and former NTDP standout and current Chicago Blackhawk Patrick Kane (2004-06).
“Gaudreau is a small guy like me and went to BC and is very skilled. He’s fast and quick and I try to model my game after him,” said Tortora. “Kane is just unbelievable. His hands are so quick and he has great vision.”
Tortora no doubt sees a little of himself in those two great players, who have also shown that heart and dedication can make up for size.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
Photo by Rena Laverty
Favorite NHL Team
Favorite NHL Player
Favorite TV Show
24/7 Road to the Winter Classic on HBO
Thunderstruck by ACDC