The 2012-13 may have been one most fans and players would like to forget, but that is not the case for New Jersey Devils’ forward Stephen Gionta. On the contrary as this lockout shortened season in the NHL was in fact Gionta’s first full one in the big leagues.
It took the Rochester, New York native seven years to get a chance to play in the NHL, and he made the most of it. The 29-year-old Boston College graduate made his mark with the Devils in last year’s surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring three goals and four assists in 24 games. He was a grinder on the fourth line and proved once and for all that he does have what it takes to make it in the show.
Gionta, like most of the Devils, struggled offensively this year, netting only four goals and notching 10 assists in 48 games. However, even though the Devils did not make the playoffs for the second time in three years, Gionta was one of the team’s bright spots. He is a perpetual hard-worker and playmaker.
The Devils chose Gionta as their nominee for the 2013 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy which is given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. From the 30 candidates, three finalists will be picked by the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association. The final nominees have not yet been announced.
Gionta was given another honor when he was named to Team USA which is currently competing in the 2013 World Championships being held in Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. The United States is in Group H along with Russia and is playing all preliminary round games in Helsinki. Ryan Carter of the Devils is also on the roster.
Gionta scored his third straight goal in Team USA’s win over Germany over the weekend, and they will take on Slovakia in their final early round game on Tuesday. The game will be shown live on the NBC Sports Network at 1:15 EST and will also be streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra.
Team USA is five and one in preliminary round play. Their only loss thus far was a 5-3 defeat to Russia which is led by another Devil, Ilya Kovalchuk.
While the season may have ended on a sour note for the Devils and there will undoubtedly be changes come the fall, it certainly has been a year to remember for Gionta. It was one in which he proved what he has known in his heart all along; he belongs in the National Hockey League.