Pellegrini, who hails from Brooklyn, has joined the Avon River Rats roster as second goaltender after a successful athletics career with Avon View.
In his final year at the school, Pellegrini took home the Male Athlete of the Year award, during the 2016 sport awards banquet.
That was a huge moment for him.
“It was awesome; it was a big accomplishment for me. It felt really good,” Pellegrini said, adding that he won similar accolades in Grade 9. “This year it meant more, because of all of the teams I was on. It was like a family.”
Pellegrini played hockey, rugby, soccer, as well as other sports during his time at Avon View.
“But hockey was the best,” he said.
“I was on the team for three years and the coaches were awesome. They were teachers, but they weren’t even like teachers to me, they were like friends and family. They’d be there for you,” he said.
“Just being on the team with your friends, you created a bond, the chemistry was awesome,” he said. “Every time I put on an AV jersey, I battled every game. You’d go out and have a barn full of fans cheering for ya.”
Pellegrini started playing hockey in Grade 4, competitively in Grade 10.
Made the River Rats roster
Pellegrini says he’s looking forward to establishing himself with the Avon River Rats, the Junior C team based in Windsor.
“I know most of the players on the team. There’s a lot of local guys on the team, and I’ve played with many of them in the past,” he said. “We have a pretty good team this year and some great coaches, so I’m excited for the season.”
Pellegrini said his teammates are taking the season very seriously and that he’s hopeful they’ll make it to the finals again this year.
“I’m a goaltender in soccer too; I grew up around it,” he said. “I’m not afraid of the puck, I’ll save with my head or anything really. I don’t know why I became a goalie, but my grandfather was one growing up, so maybe that.”
“People called me ‘the wall’ growing up,” he said. “That nickname just stuck around for a while.”
The young goalie said he’s hoping to improve his positioning, butterfly slides, and covering his five-hole better as the season progresses.
“I just want to play as hard as I can every game,” he said. “Keep improving, and maybe go to the next step.”
Strong support at home
“My mom was very supportive of me. It’s hard being a goalie parent,” he said. “She was more worried than I was, saying ‘oh I can’t watch,’ and stuff.”
Pellegrini said his family, especially his mom Stacey Pellegrini and dad Trevor Rafuse, have helped him through every aspect of his hockey career, driving him to early-morning practices. He said his mom would even change her work schedule, just so he could get to all of his games.
“I’m just so grateful for that,” he said.
Mark Tye, Pellegrini’s former head coach with the Avon View Avalanche, said Pellegrini quickly took to competitive hockey, once he got a taste for it.
“He worked at it. He was pretty raw, but he got in quite a few games in Grade 10 and then decided that he liked it,” Tye said.
“He played soccer at a high level, badminton, some table tennis, the hockey team, the basketball team, rugby — he’s got a long list of
accomplishments,” he said. “He might not be the best of the best, but he manages to be very good in all of them.”
Tye said he’s really pleased that Pellegrini has joined the River Rats roster.
All in with positive attitude
Avon River Rats head coach Mike Lapierre said Pellegrini has been ‘all in’ on the team from the start.
“He seems like a real positive kid and he’s taking everything in,” Lapierre said.
Pellegrini isn’t the only goaltender on the team, with Carter McMullin, an over-ager, holding the position as well.
“I explained to him though that just because he’s an over-ager means he’ll be the No. 1,” Lapierre said, adding that Pelligrini will get some chances to start in the near future.
Lapierre said Pellegrini brings a positive attitude to the game.
“I’ve seen him play a fair amount in high school hockey and he’s calm and cool when he plays,” Lapierre said. “When he’s under pressure, he handles it well, and that’s a big asset for this game.”