Tonawanda News — Anthony Tulipane is a playmaker.
With great balance, speed and vision, he carries the puck up ice with his head on a swivel, surveys the defense and looks to create a scoring opportunity for the Kenmore East boys hockey team.
When he finds a mismatch, he slides a crisp pass across the ice to a teammate in hopes that they will bury it past the opposing team’s goaltender.
“He’s an excellent skater and not afraid to play the physical game as well too,” said Kenmore East coach Kyle Pray. “But what he brings to our team overall, his two way play and his constant work ethic and hardworking (mentality), he’s a great role model on the team as well.”
And so far this season, the outcome has been successful as the sophomore has grown into his role as a gritty unselfish forward for the Bulldogs (10-2-1, WNY Federation Hockey), who currently sit atop the Division II standings, four points ahead of West Seneca East for the division title with 22 points.
Tulipane has always had a pure love for the sport. When he was 5 years old, his mother Pam signed him up for a local youth hockey league.
And when Tulipane heard the news, he wasn’t too fond of the idea.
“I didn’t want to play,” Tulipane said. “I remember crying when she signed me up. ... I didn’t really know much about (hockey).”
But through continuous play and development, the game he once had no interest in became his most cherished hobby. He’s even grown fond of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews for his leadership style.
Tulipane has tried to add Toews’ hard-nosed style of play and willingness to sacrifice himself for the better of his team.
“I like to hustle and just get down low and help out in the corners,” Tulipane said. “And by digging in the corners, I set my teammates up for the next goal. I like to pass a lot too, so it kind of works out. ... You gotta stick up for your teammates too, you’ve gotta have their back at all times.”
Last season, Kenmore East coach Kyle Pray brought three freshman up to the varsity squad: Ryan Zier, Trevor Pray and Tulipane. All three played third and fourth line roles on the team.
Tulipane had one goal, five assists and six points in 14 games for the Bulldogs last season, and according to coach Pray he also gained valuable experience. That has helped make stepping into a bigger role this year a lot easier.
“As his coach all year round, not just at the high school but with the travel as well, I’ve just seen him get better and better and progress over the last two years,” Pray said. “Now that he has grown into another year and got used to the league for a year he stepped into and adapted to (the game) real well this year.”
This season Tulipane has taken advantage of playing on a top tier line for the Bulldogs. Through 13 games, he’s amassed five goals, compiled a team-high 14 assists and is second on the team in points with 19.
And with the playmaking abilities of Tulipane and the success of the team so far this season, Tulipane believes the Bulldogs have a shot at winning the division and going deep into sectionals.
“We’ve just gotta believe. That’s the biggest thing,” Tulipane said. “If we believe we can do anything. ... We can go all the way. We just need to put the work in.”
Kenmore East continues its season Sunday against Hamburg (7-2-2 WNY Federation Hockey League) at Buffalo State. Game time is set for 5 p.m.Follow @tonanewssports on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.