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Canisius notebook: Amherst native Lampasso comes back to his roots with Ohio State

It’s been seven years since Christian Lampasso played a hockey game of significance in Buffalo.

There were summer league games when he’d come home to Amherst in the offseason. But Friday night was different.

The freshman forward couldn’t wait for this weekend to come on the Ohio State schedule as his Buckeyes faced the Canisius Golden Griffins in the opening college hockey game at HarborCenter.

“When I first heard that Ohio State was playing Canisius I was just so excited because my family, my dad, everyone’s going to watch me play for the first time,” Lampasso said. “All the people I grew up with, they never got the chance to see me play once I moved out of youth hockey. Now they get to see me play and this is showtime. This is the big time.”

Like many talented hockey players, Lampasso left home at age 14 to develop his skills elsewhere. And in 2008 the place to go was Detroit.

“When I was growing up if you played in Detroit, you were one of the best players,” Lampasso said. “I’m not saying anything bad about Buffalo youth hockey, I just thought that was the best decision for me. I feel like the youth now is just unbelievable. They’ve got the Junior Sabre program here and they’re really trying to keep the Buffalo kids in Buffalo and if I was that age now, I probably would have stayed, to be honest with you. The caliber is so much better than when I was that age. I thought that going away was the best for my career and it worked out for me.”

He may have been away, but he was surrounded by a new family and the hockey community showed him incredible support last September when his mom, Judith, passed away.

Lampasso was playing in Lincoln, Neb. He flew home for the funeral while his team traveled to Tri-City in Kearney, Neb., for a game. Lampasso had no connection to Tri-City or any of the players on the team. But the organization had a moment of silence out of respect for his mother.

“It was so overwhelming,” he said of the response.

Then Lampasso pulled back the tape on his hockey stick to reveal the initials “J.L.”

“A bunch of the guys started doing it on my team and a number still put her name on the back of their sticks,” Lampasso said. “All my buddies from back home, Nick DeSimone, he plays for Union, he does it. It’s just a little thing. My mom affected a lot of people. It’s big that the hockey world is around me to keep me up.”

It’s easy for the community to rally around Lampasso. The 20-year-old describes himself as chatty and 10 minutes with him will back up his self-analysis. One of the reasons he chose Ohio State was for the size of the campus. He wanted a college experience where he would be constantly interacting with new people.

On the ice, he’s worked to make the adjustment from juniors to college. He was still looking for his first collegiate point through Ohio State’s first four games, but Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik has been impressed with Lampasso’s approach to practice and games.

“I like his energy,” Rohlik said. “He shows up every day with great energy and plays with great energy. He’s learning the college hockey game but I couldn’t be happier for the strides he’s made. He’s a big part of our team.”

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Canisius coach Dave Smith is a graduate of Ohio State, playing for the Buckeyes from 1988-92. In 126 career games he recorded 140 points (57 goals, 83 assists).

So would playing his alma mater in the HarborCenter opening lend any significance to the weekend?

“You know it’s an interesting question,” Smith said. “One that I’ve thought about. I don’t know if I’ve thought about the answer.

“There is a spot that is special for me but I’m a Griff and this is a chance for us to beat Ohio State.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com