Niwot’s Sdao playing to strengths in AHL
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Michael Sdao has been around hockey his entire life, and his passion for the sport has taken him to some elite levels of the game.
“My dad got us playing when we were really young, and it was a big part of growing up and still is, obviously, to this day,” said Sdao, now in his second full season with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Binghamton Senators.
Sdao’s father, Tony, is the owner of the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and president of the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders program.
Having a father so involved in the sport made it easy for Sdao to take up hockey at an early age.
“My brother (Jonathan, a junior at Colby College) and I were always playing growing up,” said Sdao, a defenseman. “It’s just something we grew up with and enjoyed.”
In the AHL, the 25-year-old Niwot native knows he’s just one step from realizing his dream of playing in the NHL.
Should he get the call to the parent Ottawa Senators, it’d be the culmination of a lifetime of sacrifices, hard work, dedication and the refusal to let his ultimate dream fade away.
“There are a lot of guys in Binghamton who’ve either played in the NHL or are on the verge, and that’s exciting to see,” Sdao said. “You see those guys getting that opportunity and it becomes something you strive to do.”
And for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Sdao, that means playing to his strengths – literally.
“All I can do is keep going out there and playing as a big, physical defenseman, staying aggressive and being that player who’s hard to play against,” he said.
Sdao has the size and grit to make an impact. He racked up his share of penalty minutes with the USHL’s Lincoln Stars, but once he arrived on the campus of Princeton University in the fall of 2009, he knew he’d have to adjust his game accordingly.
“Playing in college gave me the opportunity to round out other facets of my game, like playing without the puck and a few other things I knew I had to change,” said Sdao, who majored in history at Princeton.
Sdao said that, early in the 2008-09 USHL campaign when the Stars were playing in the league’s season-opening Fall Classic, he had a feeling Princeton would be his college destination.
“Growing up, I always knew I wanted to play in college and I think making the Stars and playing in the USHL meant I’d have that opportunity at some point,” said Sdao, who played two seasons in Lincoln from 2007-09.
“When you play in the USHL, there are scouts watching every game, every night. Committing to Princeton was also a no-brainer when one of my friends from high school (Will MacDonald from the Culver Military Academy) also committed there. I was just so thankful for that opportunity.”
Sdao, selected by Ottawa in the seventh round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, signed with the Sens four days after his college career ended in 2013 and played 12 pro games that spring. He signed a new two-year deal last summer.
Growing up in Colorado, Sdao played for Boulder Hockey Club from Mites until Bantams, then skated for the Colorado Outlaws for two seasons before heading to Culver for his last two years of high school.
“I have a lot of memories of my youth career, but one that stands out the most is winning a Mite state championship with Boulder in 1996,” Sdao said. “A lot of my friends I played with then I still keep in touch with; some are still playing hockey and some have moved on, but we still make a point to keep in touch with one another.
“Hockey has just always been a way of life for me, and I hope it always will be.”
– Matt Mackinder