By Dan Guttenplan
Some young hockey players dream of emulating current NHL stars like Sidney Crosby or Tyler Seguin. Others take a more old-school approach and try to mimic the moves of Hall of Famers like Wayne Gretzky and Ray Bourque.
But Amesbury forward Anthony Licciardello has, since childhood, idolized a player much closer to home, who is one step away from the NHL and whose cellphone is just a call away when an issue arises on the ice.
That role model is former University of New Hampshire and Pinkerton star, 2011 Hockey East Player of the Year and current Pittsburgh Penguins minor leaguer Paul Thompson — who also happens to be Licciardello’s cousin.
“I’ve been close to him since I was born and I have always tried to model my game after him,” said Licciardello. “I think I was at just about every game he played until he got to college, and then I was at all the home games. And he has always been there to answer my questions.”
Licciardello has certainly made his cousin proud this season.
The Whittier Tech senior, who is in his second year as captain for the Amesbury High/Whittier co-op hockey team, has been a force on the ice this winter, with 14 goals, two fewer than the first three years of his varsity career combined, and 25 overall points for the season.
“Anthony really loves the sport of hockey,” said Thompson, currently the No. 2 goal-scorer for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. “This has been a season he has worked for and he is really taking a lot of joy in it. We always talk about hockey, and I am so proud of him this season.”
Hockey became a staple of Licciardello and Thompson’s family — their mothers are sisters — before either one emerged as a star. Their cousin Mike Souza starred at UNH (1996-2000) and was selected with the No. 67 overall pick in the 1997 NHL draft.