The Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League and the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League said farewell to North Carolina State’s longtime head coach.
Mike Gazzillo, who manned the Icehawks’ bench first as an assistant coach and more recently as their head coach for more than a decade, formally announced his departure from the ACC Hockey League.
During his decade with the NC State’s hockey program, he guided the Icehawks to 3 ACC League Championships, 8 ACC Season Championships, and the team’s first ACHA D2 National Tournament appearance in 2019. He was voted by his peers twice as the ACC Hockey Coach of the Year.
"Mike Gazzillo is a class act", stated ACC Commissioner Mike Walley. "His leadership was evident on the ice, but also behind the scenes. Off the ice, he spends countless hours constantly mentoring his players. I leaned on Mike often as a sounding board - his insight and feedback helped shaped the league into the professional organization it is today. Mike will be not only be missed behind the Icepack bench, but by the entire league."
Gazzillo will long be remembered for more than wins and losses and championship hardware. Almost immediately after taking the helm of the N.C. State program, he set about creating the annual Stephen Russell Memorial Tourrnament, which honors the memory of the Icehawks goalie who perished in a mishap on a North Carolina lake.
Gazzillo ranks the evolution of the Russell tournament among the fondest memories of his decade with the Icehawks.
He said he tried for several yeas to establish a tournament in mid-season, but teams would back out at the last minute.
“I spoke to Brady and Kelly Buckley (Stephen’s parents) about moving the tournament to October. Then, our commissioner, Mike Walley, called me about combining an ACCHL season kick-off tournament with the Stephen Russell tournament . . . It has really been a great success since,” Gazzillo told NC State’s hockey website.
Second among Gazzillo’s memories is the growth of the ACCHL during his time at the helm of the team. “Mike’s done an incredible job with the league and I'm sure it will only get better,” he said.
Gazzillo said he will also cherish the memory of “the look on the face of Sam Banewicz’s face” after N.C. State’s championship game last season.
“We met out on the ice after the guys started celebrating. The look was priceless. He was so excited to win the Admiral’s Cup and yet so sad that he just played his last ACC league game.”
The appearance of three players who helped found the N.C. State program at one of the Icepacks’ games this past season also moved Gazzillo. . . . “The guys came into the locker room to say hello to our team and exchange some anecdotes from ‘the day’,” he recalled
“It moved me to express to our team going into this year’s ACCHL tourney that many years down the road, when they get together with each other and their families, that these are the days they will be talking about,” Gazzillo said
Gazzillo’s successor as the Icehawk’s head coach is Tim Healy, who was an assistant coach with the team the past three seasons.
The Kingston, N.Y., native’s resume includes stints on the coaching staffs of several private schools in the northeast. He has coached at private schools in the northeast.