WATERTOWN — Last Saturday, rookie defenseman Alex D’Oliveira suited up in a Nationals sweater, as he logged an assist for Cornwall in a victory over the North Shore Knights.
Not even a week later on Friday night, D’Oliveira found himself in a Watertown Wolves jersey playing against the composite Northern Federals, who replaced the now-defunct Cornwall franchise after it ceased operations on Tuesday. A dispersal draft was held the same day, which landed the 24-year-old in Watertown.
“Word was getting around that the Nationals might be folding, so we got word that there was going to be a draft,” said D’Oliveira, who arrived in town Wednesday. “Right after that meeting with the (Cornwall) team, (Watertown head coach Trevor Karasiewicz) called me. It was exciting to be drafted by Watertown, and it was unfortunate what happened to Cornwall. but I’m really excited to see what happens here.”
His debut went smoothly, as he provided solid defense and added an assist in a 12-2 Wolves victory over the Federals at the Watertown Municipal Arena. “They’re professionals, it’s pretty easy to get them into the game,” Karasiewicz said of D’Oliveira and other new additions. The Wolves brought in another player from the dispersal draft, goalie Sebastien Dube-Rochon, who did not suit up for Friday’s contest but will report next week.
Featuring players from a swath of backgrounds and having no practice time, the Federals predictably struggled against the well-oiled Wolves (21-12), who’ve won six games in a row and nine out of their last 11. They maintain a firm grasp on the second seed in the Federal Hockey League standings.
Despite skating to a widely expected outcome, Karasiewicz stressed the need to maintain a consistent mentality.
“You try not to change the approach,” he said. “You try to keep everyone level-headed and even-keel, so it doesn’t matter if you’re playing them or (first-place) Port Huron. You want to make sure it’s the same thing, that they have the right mentality and attitude going.”
The Wolves scored one minute, 27 seconds into the first period on a goal by John Scully, who also finished with two assists. It was the first of six goals in the frame, which saw five different players score.
The second period was no different, with Watertown producing five more goals before providing the topper in the third. D’Oliveira made his assist on the middle frame’s first tally, a score by Gavin Yates, who produced two goals and two assists.
“I try to play a two-way game,” D’Oliveira said. “Be defensively sound first, and when opportunities present themselves, try to take them. I’m new to the league, so I’m not trying to be too creative just now, but as weeks progress hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit more creative and make a bigger offensive contribution as well.”
D’Oliveira is making a return to his beloved sport after a two-year hiatus that saw him concentrate on graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University and starting his own business. Beforehand, the Georgetown, Ontario, native played collegiately for two years at Oswego State and starred in the Ontario Junior Hockey League prior to that.
From 2010-14, D’Oliveira logged 26 goals and 105 assists in 198 games played, with a large chunk of those stats coming with the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots.
“He’s a strong defenseman,” Karasiewicz said. “He’s a stay-at-home guy, he keeps it simple. He’s a shutdown player so it’s nice to have a guy like him.”
With the accommodating nature the Wolves have shown him and the friendships he’s quickly made, D’Oliveira sees a lot of potential for the team and himself.
“I definitely feel welcome here in Watertown,” he said. “I already had once practice, it was a good skate with good players. The fans are great, I’m really excited.”