Westminster product Cesario thrilled with opportunity to advance career with NAHL’s Wilderness
Joe Cesario grew up playing for the Hyland Hills Jaguars and then spent the last four seasons playing for the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders.
Now, the Westminster native has earned the opportunity to play junior hockey next season after recently signing a tender agreement with the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness.
“The opportunity to tender with the Wilderness really started to come into the picture two years ago,” Cesario said. “I’ve been skating with Brendan Phelps, the current assistant coach for the Wilderness, for the past few offseasons and he invited me to the main camps.
“What really appeals to me about the Wilderness is how they seem to focus on developing their players so they will be ready to move on to the next level. I am very excited to leave home and especially for the chance to move to a hockey hotbed like Minnesota.”
During the 2021-22 season, Cesario furthered his development with the RoughRiders’ 18U AAA team.
“This last season was a great year for my team,” said Cesario. “We played really well together and were competitive in every game. We definitely didn’t get the result we wanted in the end, but overall, it was a great year. Personally, I feel that I played well this season. I was forced to overcome a variety of obstacles which helped me grow as a player and as a leader.
“I feel this last season prepared me very well for juniors overall. My coaches really focused on pushing players on and off the ice and trained us as if we were a junior team. Getting the opportunity to play a couple of games with Wilderness as an affiliate player showed me where I need to be in order to succeed at this level.”
Cesario said moving to the NAHL, a league that sends countless players to college hockey every year, is one of many reasons why he is looking forward to next season.
“That is definitely one of the biggest things that appeals to me about this league,” said Cesario. “Being able to play college hockey has always been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid. Seeing the success the NA and Minnesota has with advancing players to that next level really excites me.”
Back home in Colorado, played 11 years for Hyland Hills before joining the RoughRiders.
“There were a lot of coaches that pushed me and helped me become successful in my hockey career, but the ones that stand out the most to me are Al Cunningham, Tyson Davis, and Doug Smail,” Cesario said. “These coaches really pushed me to be a great person on and off the ice and taught me so many life lessons.
“My short-term goal is to play for the Wilderness this season. My long-term goals are to make an NCAA Division I roster and play hockey while pursuing a degree in Engineering.”
— Matt Mackinder
(May 20, 2022)