|Pete Massar (Photo: Ed Wolfstein)|
"It comes with a lot of responsibility," Massar said Monday afternoon about being the team's first signing. "I'm going to have to put a lot of work in and make sure they made the right decision bringing me in. I'm pretty excited."
Massar comes to the Fuel from the University of Vermont, where he played the last two years of his four-year collegiate career. This past season, he scored six goals -- ranking fifth on the Catamounts -- and had nine points.
Although he describes himself as a skill player, Massar played this past season on Vermont's checking line. He also played on the power play and penalty kill for his home-state university -- a team he grew up watching when Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis were wearing green and gold.
"Pete plays with energy and skill," Hillman said. "His feet are always moving and he has a good amount of deception in his game. He is committed at both ends of the ice and is very hungry to get off to a very good start in his pro career. We believe that he has the skill and mindset that will make him a very solid rookie in the ECHL."
Massar scored 16 goals and had 54 points in just 36 games in his last season of junior hockey, playing for the Tier III Green Mountain Glades in his home state of Vermont. He played his first two seasons at Clarkson University, but injuries cut both years short. He said he "figured it was time to make a change" and transferred to Vermont in 2011, played 20 games in his first season with UVM in 2012-13, and played 31 games this year.
The checking line he played on was more of a possession line for the Catamounts, as Massar said they were constantly producing offense. This year's Catamounts team went 20-15-3 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament, falling to eventual national champion Union 5-2 in the first round.
"Throughout my career, I've been a skill guy," Massar said. "This past year, I played with two other guys, our role became a shutdown line. It worked pretty well. Our role was really to get the team going, to try to contribute any way I can. We produced offense the whole time. We were in the offensive zone. I blocked the occasional shot or two. It was a good foundation. In the (ECHL), they play with three lines, so every line plays every role. You've got to be ready."
"That was a pretty whirlwind experience getting there," Massar said. "I was focusing on contributing any way I could. I didn't really know if I could do much. I was running on adrenaline."
The Mavericks' coach was Fuel coach Scott Hillman, who later made Massar his first signing to build the new team with.
"It was a great experience playing for Coach Hillman," Massar said. "He had a great rapport on the bench and really controlled the game. We had a couple of heartbreaking losses."
Hillman said after being hired in May that he hopes to see a number of Fuel players make their way to the AHL, and eventually, the NHL. Massar is hoping to do the same. The Fuel's affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs -- and exposure to other NHL scouts -- is critical.
"Every guy in the league is thinking the same thing," Massar scored. "I can't speak for everybody, but the majority of guys in the league want to move up to the next level. That's my focus in the end. If you're consistent and you play well, you get noticed."
Massar is looking forward to building a foundation with his new team.
"We've got to build a solid foundation," Massar said. "We want to win a championship as a new team in the league. Coach Hillman will do a great job, being the right guy. We've got to focus on having the right team and winning every night. If we focus on just being consistent, that will be the biggest thing."