Craig Pierce is one of two incoming UAH Chargers who hail from Roswell, Ga., an Atlanta suburb that is also the hometown of Neil Ruffini (2007-11). Pierce played for the Rochester Jr. A Stars of the Eastern Junior Hockey League during the 2010-11 season, going 11-18–29 in 45GP. Prior to his time in Rochester, he logged two years for Compuware AAA in Michigan.
I asked Craig a series of questions and gave him license to respond as he saw fit. My questions will be marked in bold-face type.
When did you first start playing hockey? Who in your family played and was involved in you taking up the game? Have you always been a forward? What was your favorite team and player growing up?
I first started playing when we were living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was 4 years old, and our family had season tickets to the Cincinnati Cyclones, which was then an IHL team. Watching the Cyclones play was how I got introduced to the game. Then my parents got me a pair of those Fisher Price skates, a pair of gloves and a stick. I can remember playing in the driveway with my older brother, Brett. My brother grew up playing, and he had a lot to do with me taking up the game. We moved to Atlanta when I was 5, and he joined a rec league. I would go and watch his games, so I think that influenced me into wanting to join a team. I have always played forward, mostly center. I did go through a stage where I loved to play goalie, but that didn’t last too long. My dad grew up in a suburb of Detroit, so I have always been a Red Wings fan. Then when Atlanta got a team they became my other favorite. My favorite player was Steve Yzerman and he has had a big influence on me. My favorite current favorite player is Jim Slater, who played for the Atlanta Thrashers—now Winnipeg, but that’s a sore subject.
Why do you want to play college hockey as your junior career is ending? What schools recruited you other than UAH? Why did you decide to come to UAH?
Playing college hockey was always my dream and goal. I grew up being a big fan of college hockey and always dreamt of being out there playing. It is an unbelievable feeling to know that I will be playing for my school and also be gaining a great education at the same time. My parents always pushed for me to get good grades and do well in school, so going to college was a for sure thing. Now to finally go to college and play hockey for the University is something I am really looking forward to.
There were other Division 1 and 3 schools that recruited and offered me to play for them, but in the end UAH was my number one choice. They were my number one option since I started talking to them not only because they were Division 1 but also because of how close the school is to my home in Atlanta. When my Dad and I went to tour the campus, attend a game, and talk with the coaches, I knew it was the best fit for me. Also the fact that their business school has a reputation as being one of the top in the country drew my attention.
I think playing the independent schedule is also very cool. I know that they have been working hard at trying to get into a conference, but to be able to play some of the top hockey programs in college hockey is something not everyone gets to experience. Finally being close to home and making it easier for my family to make the trip over was important to me.
What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice? What are your favorite situations on the ice?
My strengths are that I am a two-way player that is responsible in the defensive zone as well as a versatile player with the ability to play in all situations. I try to focus on the little things that I do well such as winning face-offs, blocking shots and finishing all my checks. My weaknesses include over-thinking occasionally and speed and quickness; I have been working on my both this summer preparing for the transition to college hockey.
One of my favorite situations is being on the ice at the end of the game trying to defend a lead. I also like to kill penalties and knowing if we kill it off that it could give our team momentum. I enjoy throwing big hits or scoring a big goal, anything to get the team going.
What are your favorite sports to play other than hockey? If we come across you away from the rink, what are you going to be doing?
When I was younger I enjoyed playing baseball but then when hockey became more serious I had no time to play and had to give it up. I like to play golf, especially in the summer. I spend a lot of time at the rink during the summer. I skate, work out, and work at the rink back home in Georgia. But away from the rink I like to go to the pool or lake. Also I like to hang out with my friends from back home that I don’t get to see during the season.
What do you want out of your UAH experience? What do you expect to learn here to make you a more well-rounded person?
I want to have a good college experience that includes gaining a degree and being a part of and contributing to building a winning hockey program at UAH. I want to win a championship whether it includes a holiday tournament or a league championship. I have always watched the NCAA tournament, so I really want to play in it. I am also looking forward to meeting new people and friends. I am hoping to start up or be a part of a program that helps out in the community. I am expecting to learn a lot about what’s going to help my career after college. I will learn time management skills by balancing my school work with hockey. I’m also looking to be a positive role model that represents the University.