• Benjamin Klein (@CTHSHockeyBK)

I Can't Wait to Get to South Korea

In just over a month, former Fairfield Prep Jesuit Mark Arcobello will suit up in the locker room, just as he’s done hundreds and hundreds of times before. But on February 14th, things will be somewhat different compared to his typical routine. The 29-year-old Milford, Conn. native will be donning a Team USA jersey, getting ready to face Slovenia in the Group B opener of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

“I was on the road when I first got the call,” says Arcobello, who was gracious enough to answer a few questions via email while he’s in Switzerland, playing for SC Bern. “I texted my wife, Mollie, first, and then immediate family.”

Missing from the rosters of 2018 Winter Olympics teams will be NHL stars. The league made the decision not to disrupt its schedule to allow its players the chance to compete. The NHL has participated in every Winter Olympics since 1998 with a total of 706 players attending, an average of 141 per season, according to NHL.com.

“With the lack of NHL participation, it gives players like me a unique opportunity to represent our country on the biggest stage,” says Arcobello. “Being selected to play for the United States at the Olympics gives me a proud and exciting feeling.

“I can’t wait to get to South Korea.”

Team USA will be looking to win its first gold medal since the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, New York. It will be the second major taste of international competition for Arcobello, who played on the 2015 IIHF World Championship team that won a bronze medal.

“The World Championships was a fun tournament,” says Arcobello, “[but] I think there’s nothing like the Olympics. The World Championships happen once a year and they're not given very much attention. I think the Olympics is the biggest stage for international competition.”

About 17 hours (by plane) from Pyeongchang, South Korea is Bern, Switzerland, home of SC Bern. Arcobello is in his second year with the team, tallying 55 points in 2016-17 and 37 thus far in 2017-18. “It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made to decide to come to Bern,” says the 5-foot-8 wing. “Our team is currently in first place and are two-time defending champions.”

Arcobello is no stranger to championships. He won two CIAC Division I State Championships at Fairfield Prep back in high school. “I made memories at Prep that will last a lifetime,” says Arcobello, who scored 52 goals and racked up 64 assists in two-plus years with the Jesuits (missed half of his freshman year with an injury). He was named the 2005 CT Division I Player of the Year and was named to the CT Division I All-State Team in 2004 and 2005, among many other accolades during his career at Fairfield Prep.

“Being able to win a State Championship alongside my older brother, Dave, was something I won’t forget. Matt Sather and Rudy Mauritz continue to produce highly competitive teams year after year. It was a privilege to be able to start my hockey career with them.”

After three years at Fairfield Prep, Arcobello made the decision to head to the Salisbury School for one year. He made the most of his time there, leading the team in points (47) and helping them win the Division I New England Prep School Championship.

From there, it was onto college. Arcobello chose a school he knew would be special: Yale University.

Despite success at the high school and prep school levels, Arcobello had his eyes set more on Ingalls than the possibility of an NHL rink. “When I was in high school,” he says, “playing professional hockey wasn’t even on my radar. I was more focused on playing at Yale and enjoying those 4 years as much as I could.”

In his four-year career with the Bulldogs, Arcobello had 116 points, good for 15th on the University’s all-time scoring list. “I was lucky enough to experience four years of Yale hockey and to contribute to the program’s turnaround under Keith Allain.”

One of the perks of playing for Yale is the opportunity to play at Ingalls on a regular basis. “Ingalls had been a special rink for me long before I won a State Championship at Prep or went to Yale,” says Arcobello. “Growing up, playing for SC Youth Hockey, it was always a highlight of the year getting to play a game at Ingalls. Winning high school state championships there is a great memory, but there is no feeling like a sold-out Yale home game.”

After graduating from Yale, Arcobello went undrafted. Looking for an opportunity to play full-time, he agreed to play minor league hockey for the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, an affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. He totaled 20 points in 33 games for Stockton in 2010-11, and then totaled 22 points in 26 games for the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.

In 2011, the Oilers signed Arcobello to a two-year entry-level contract. He played the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with Oklahoma City before making his NHL debut with Edmonton on February 6, 2013 against the Dallas Stars.

“The road to the NHL was difficult for me, being an undrafted, undersized player out of college. I think starting my professional career in the ECHL helped me realize the work and commitment it would take to get the NHL. Working my way up the ladder helped me grow as a player and a person.”

In 139 career games in the NHL between the Oilers, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, Arcobello scored 24 goals and had 29 assists.

“I’ve been given some great opportunities from coaches and general managers along the way that I was able to make the most of. Obviously, I wish my time in the NHL was longer and more productive. Besides that, every step along the way has been valuable.

“My advice [to younger hockey players] would be to take it one step at a time,” says Arcobello. “Focus on becoming a better high school hockey player first, don’t look too far into the future.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea begin on February 9th. You can follow Mark Arcobello and the rest of Team USA at teamusa.usahockey.com. All quotes were obtained first hand and only edited for grammar and clarity. Picture courtesy of NBC Sports.

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