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All-North MVP: Robert’s vision guides Massena

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MASSENA — If Zach Robert seemed like an extra coach while he was on the ice this season that is no coincidence.

The Massena senior knows coaching well as both of his parents — Betty and Steve — have been varsity coaches at Massena High School.

“As a coach you can articulate to your players what you see and how you want them to react,” Massena coach Mike Trimboli said. “When you have a youthful player that is out there and he sees it as well, he can exercise that and relate to his teammates the same thing you as an adult and coach would try to get across to them.

“As the child of a coach you are hearing certain things at home and you develop an ability to analyze the game better than most kids. As the years go on you hear your parents talking about the intricacies of the game and you start to look into it and realize it yourself. As you grow and develop and get older and hear from your own coaches you can relate to those intricacies.”

Robert helped lead Massena to a 12-6-1 overall record this season and a spot in the state Division I semifinals. He finished with six goals and 17 assists and is the Times’ All-North Most Valuable Player.

“I’ve had both of my parents for coaches in other sports,” Robert said. “They are always motivating me to do better. It helps you to understand what coaches look for in a player.”

Robert, who is 6-foot, 220 pounds, was more than just a coach on the ice for the Red Raiders. He was a bruising forward with a strong work ethic, as well as an intelligent player who is very competitive.

“He creates a lot of turnovers through his physicality, especially in the neutral zone,” Trimboli said. “He has great leadership qualities, both on and off the ice. He spends a lot of time away from the ice in the gym, and he’s kind of brought along a lot of the younger players into that mentality.

“He’s got a heavy shot and creates a lot of rebounds, that’s why he has so many assists. He either forechecks hard and creates the turnovers through physical play or he created an offensive rush, got a good shot on net, and the goalie couldn’t handle it and we were able to capitalize on rebounds. He’s got the ability to control the tempo of the game.”

Robert may have scored just six goals, but he had a knack for delivering them when needed most.

He scored an overtime game-winner on Jan. 12 against Rome and in Massena’s next game four days later, he delivered another overtime winner against Salmon River.

“He was a presence on the ice,” Trimboli said. “He was a game-changer. His physical play, other teams were wary of it. He was a kid that could step up and play hard at a moment’s notice.”

Not only was Robert the best hockey player in Section 10, he also was one of the most intelligent.

He will not compete in hockey at the collegiate level, except on club teams, because he will be attending Clarkson in the fall to study computer engineering.

“It was an easy decision,” Robert said of bypassing juniors or prep school. “Whenever there’s a problem with the computer I’d just stay there for hours until I fixed it. I like knowing how stuff works.” And the reason for Robert’s good grades is the same drive that made him a successful hockey player.

“I’m really competitive with everything I guess,” Robert said. “I look at grades the same (as sports).”

Robert will keep active in hockey next year and hopes to play for Clarkson’s club team. He also has already lined up a job working at Cheel Arena as part of the student rink crew at Cheel Arena.

“I like (Clarkson’s) location and I’m more about the smaller size,” Robert said. “I’m not really a big-city person.”

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