Stephen Mundinger is someone young hockey players can look up to. At 6-8, the Smithtown West product casts quite a shadow.
Mundinger, who will be competing for the starting goalie job at the University of Maine this fall, has found a way to share his talents and passion for hockey by teaching the game to the younger generation, paying it forward just like his grandfather did for him when he was a young boy.
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When the 240-pound Mundinger is not in between the pipes, he enjoys spending time at the Rinx in Hauppauge, helping younger players improve their craft as goaltender instructor at the rink’s clinics.
“It is awesome,” Mundinger said. “I love working with younger kids and I try to make the clinics as enjoyable and as fun as possible.”
Mundinger, who will turn 21 Tuesday, developed his love for the game starting at age 5 from his grandfather, Bernie Tully, who died in 2014.
“My grandfather was a huge inspiration to me,” Mundinger said. “We would always watch Rangers games together and then go out to the driveway and take turns playing goalie.”
Mundinger began playing roller hockey when he was 7 years old, but did not take up ice hockey until his junior year of high school at Smithtown West.
In 2014, the Smithtown West graduate joined the PAL Junior Islanders of the United States Premier Hockey League. Despite his 8-22 record during the 2014-15 season, Mundinger’s talents did not go unnoticed.
The New York Aviators, who were part of the USPHL at the time, faced off against Mundinger and the Junior Islanders six times during the season. Aviators coach Mike Stanaway was impressed by what he saw from the goaltender.
“After the season ended, I reached out to him and asked him to play for us,” Stanaway said. “We wanted to give him the exposure he deserved because we could see he was a top-end athlete.”
Mundinger accepted Stanaway’s offer and joined the Aviators, who moved to the Tier III North American 3 Eastern Hockey League (NA3EHL) for the 2015-16 season. After a stellar season, Mundinger earned the attention of the Maine Black Bears coaching staff.
The goaltender led the NA3EHL in several statistical categories, including saves (1,353), minutes played (2,062) and save percentage (.936). He also finished second in the league with 24 wins, ranked in the top six in goals-against average (2.71) and was named the league Goalie of the Year.
Maine first reached out to Mundinger last September and continued to keep in contact with him throughout the fall and into the spring. During his official campus visit March 21, Mundinger committed to the university.
“I know how important it is to have a good teacher at a young age,” Mundinger said. “I learned this from my grandfather and I know that he would be really proud of me, seeing where I am today.”