When Aidan Cavallini joins the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team next season, he will do so versed in expectations and adversity.
The 21-year-old winger’s father, Gino, and uncle, Paul, both played in the NHL, so he knows the drill about chasing dreams and big footsteps.
Aidan also endured two major injuries as a young prospect — a broken femur when he was 17 and a broken wrist that required three surgeries when he was 18 — setbacks that cost him the better part of two seasons of development.
“I’ve battled through a lot,” he said.
Which made Cavallini’s visit to Madison last week all that more rewarding. He accepted an offer from UW coach Mike Eaves with little internal debate.
“Everything you’re looking for in a college, Wisconsin is No. 1,” he said. “It’s a school I always dreamed about going to.”
Cavallini, listed at 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds, has bounced all over the junior hockey circuit in the U.S. and Canada. He currently plays for Brookings (S.D.) of the National American Hockey League where he has 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) in 30 games.
NCAA rules prohibit Eaves, who played in the NHL with Gino Cavallini, from commenting on a recruit until after a letter of intent is signed. Cavallini, who also had a scholarship offer from Holy Cross, expects to bring a strong, physical presence to UW.
“His style of play will translate well at the next level,” Brookings coach Cory Laylin said. “He has a strong body and a gritty attitude.”
It remains to be seen if Eaves will be expanding his roster for next season or if Cavallini will be filling a vacancy at forward. Two seniors, center Derek Lee and left winger Ryan Little, are leaving. Two recruits, wingers Grant Besse and Corbin McGuire, have signed.
Cavallini is almost overwhelmed by the opportunity.
“For someone to believe in my abilities like this, it’s so rewarding,” he said.