Springfield Blues’ Assenmacher leads in assists, toughness and heart

By Derek Berry
Ben Assenmacher doesn’t have to speak in the Springfield Jr. Blues
locker room to command respect from his teammates. He merely shows them
what he’s talking about by collecting points on the ice and making big
plays. He leads by example.

Springfield head coach Craig Heggs says his star can play in all zones
and all corners and is possibly the hardest worker on the team.

“There’s no stat category for hard work,” says coach Heggs. “Benny
logs a lot of ice time. You don’t have to worry about him away from the

The Blues’ team captain is one of the top penalty killers on the team
and simply leads by example, much like his linemate Greg Rallo.

“He is a tough kid, a captain by example,” says Heggs. “We need to
bring more players like Benny into this program. He’s very coachable,
very committed.”

Assenmacher himself would be the first one to tell you that he’s a
hard-working guy and he knows what it takes. He works hard off the ice
and in the gym. He constantly tweaks his game, and knows he’s not
always going to be perfect. But, he expects to win. And he expects his
teammates to win.

Ben Assenmacher is from a highly competitive background and the
athletic trademark runs deep through his family roots.

Ben’s dad received a full-ride scholarship to play football at the
University of Detroit. His father is now a hard-working doctor. He has
five older brothers, one younger than he and a sister thrown in there

Assenmacher says although his dad never forced any of his siblings to
play a sport, every one of them, including his sister, all took to
playing hockey. It became the sport of choice for the Assenmacher
kids. In fact, Ben’s brother Craig played hockey at the University of

“There was lots of competition in the family,” says Assenmacher. “We
were very competitive with each other and we even scrapped a few times
too,” he says with a laugh.

Scrappiness is also one of the traits Assenmacher possesses. Like his
idol Keith Tkachuk of the Phoenix Coyotes, he’s not afraid to mix it up
a bit and defend his teammates.

Heggs feels his young star’s grittiness might be a reason why more
colleges have not beaten down his door.

“Maybe he scraps a bit much out there, I don’t know,” says Heggs. “I
know there were a few schools interested in him, but I’ll tell you, this
is a good kid, who gets good grades. He’s the type of player that a
college coach would love to have.”

Heggs says initially Qunnipiac and Harvard showed some serious interest
in Assenmacher, the latter proving just what a student Ben is.

Teams such as Bowling Green, Miami, Ohio and Notre Dame would be great
fits for Assenmacher, says Heggs, and would keep the team’s assists
leader right in the heart of the Midwest.

“I’m really hoping Benny gets what he wants because he deserves it,”
says Heggs.

College is definitely in the cards for Assenmacher, but the Toledo,
Ohio native hasn’t ruled out another year with Springfield. Much of
that comes from his lack of ice time in his first season with the Texas

“Last year was kind of frustrating because I felt like I was more of an
offensive threat, but didn’t get the playing time with Texas,” says
Assenmacher. “A lot of that is because of the team we had,” he says,
referring to the tremendous season Texas had in 1999-2000 (wining the
regular season and Western conference titles) and the number of stars on
that squad.

The colleges, Heggs says, may not be looking in Assenmacher’s
direction, simply because of the mediocre year the team is having and
the lack of a strong supporting cast.

Still, Heggs knows he could have two of the best forwards in the NAHL
next season if both Assenmacher and goal-scoring whiz Rallo return to
the Blues.

Assenmacher naturally likes the idea.

“I’ve given some thought to coming back and I hope Greg does too,” he
says. “I really kind of look at this as being like my rookie season
because of the lack of ice time last year,” he adds, knowing that
another season in the NAHL could improve his chances of getting more
colleges at his door.

Assenmacher, like Rallo, works hard on the ice and takes great pride in
that. He says his off-season work on his quickness and speed and his
improved work ethic have contributed to his success this season.

“I’m really more of a setup man, getting the big assists and Greg gets
the big goals,” says Assenmacher. “Rallo’s a perfect player on our line
and we’ve got perfect chemistry out there.”

Assenmacher hopes that his work ethic can help lead his team into the
playoffs, although that has been a tough exercise this season.

“It gets frustrating at times,” says Assenmacher, of the young Blues.
“It’s a rough situation, but you have to keep trying to do everything
you can to keep the team motivated. I prefer to go out there and play

And for the guys who don’t play hard, Assenmacher says he’s not afraid
to pull them aside. The mark of a captain who cares.

“I’ll take a guy aside and say, ‘Look, step it up a bit,'” says
Assenmacher. “I know how to talk to the guys, I know how it is because
some of these guys are in high school and I was there once too. I can
talk on their level and I’m not much older than them.”

Heggs knows his tough, fearless captain won’t slip through the cracks.
He’s got a “stick-to-it-ive-ness,” says Heggs, creating a word, but
effectively describing Assenmacher. “There’s a school out there he’ll
fit in with.”

Indeed. How could a college hockey program refuse a leader like Ben