Odessa, TX – The Odessa Jackalopes would like to congratulate Mike Manzo on playing in his 100th NAHL game this Saturday. The Jackalopes are a member of the North American Hockey League and play out of the Ector County Coliseum located in Odessa, TX.
The century mark for an athlete usually denotes a lot of hard work and dedication. A lot of early morning practices followed by grueling afternoon workouts. The constant rinse and repeat cycle that goes for 60 games from September to April with very limited time off can put a lot of wear and tear on a person. For the Troy, MI native his 100th game was here before he knew it, “I’m excited about my 100th game. The games go by fast. I remember playing my first, and now next thing you know it’s your 100th, so I make sure I enjoy every single one.”
Manzo started his NAHL career in 2019-20. He played for a total of three teams, all in different divisions, during his first year in junior hockey. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights were the first stop in Manzo’s junior hockey career. They drafted him #113 overall in 2019. The 5’9”/175lb. right-handed forward played 21 games for the Knights and registered three points (2g). He can still recall his first NAHL goal like it was yesterday, “My first goal was pretty exciting as a rookie. I came off the bench and got the puck on the regroup. I was able to beat a couple of guys wide and threw it on the net. It was a nice first goal.”
His journey took a slight detour through the Midwest Division as Manzo was acquired by the Springfield Jr. Blues. He would only lace up his skates twice for them before joining the Odessa Jackalopes in 2020. He finished out that season playing 11 games for the Jacks (1a). Manzo had this to say as he reflected on playing in three different divisions in his first year, “There is a lot of differences playing between the divisions, mainly pointing at physicality. The South is a lot meaner, tougher, and harder to score in. Although it prepares you more for college hockey.” Manzo went on to say, “The East was a good place to start but going down South helped my development in multiple ways.”
Last year, Manzo played 45 games for Odessa and tallied ten points (6g). That is the most goals Manzo has scored in a season. However, he has 14 points this year (3g) with more than half the season remaining. The 20-year-old is tied for fifth on the team in points. His 11 assists put him in a tie for second-most on the team. Odessa currently leads the NAHL in short-handed goals (8) and Manzo has contributed by scoring one and assisting on three (team-high). When asked what it is like to play in front of the fans at the JackShack, Manzo stated, “Our fans have always been great, even when the team was struggling. We always appreciate their support.”
Reaching triple digits in games played in any sport is impressive and should be acknowledged as such. Every athlete has the same dream of reaching the highest level possible. For Manzo, reaching the NCAA DI or DIII is the next step, “Our team is looking solid and if we can keep winning games, it will help not only myself but the whole group move to the next level.”
On Saturday, Mike Manzo will not only play in his 100th game but also his 77th as a Jackalope. He had this to say about what playing for the Jackalopes has meant to him, “I’ve played a good chunk of my career in Odessa, so I have gotten to see and experience all the ups and downs. I arrived here with the organization in a very tough spot in the standings. Considering how tough it was, it makes you learn to enjoy what you’re doing no matter how bad it seems.” He went on to add, “I always try to have fun in the little things. That has helped me get through the tough times.”
Manzo will enter his 100th game on a three-game point streak (career-high). He has produced five points in his last three games (4a). When reflecting on what his final year of junior eligibility means to him, Manzo said, “Having this be my last year of juniors, I’m always trying to take every day in and enjoy everything we do as a team. I’m grateful for all the people that I have met and that have helped me over the last three years.”