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Five LIers chosen in U.S. Hockey League draft

Daniel LaFontaine is seen with his father and

Daniel LaFontaine is seen with his father and coach, Pat LaFontaine, during a Long Island Royals practice at Superior Ice Rink in Kings Park. (Nov. 8, 2011) Credit: Gregory A. Shemitz

Four Long Island high school hockey players were selected last week in the United States Hockey League draft, along with 2011 Connetquot grad Frankie DiChiara.

Three of the players -- Michael Marnell and Daniel LaFontaine of St. Anthony's, and Nick Hutchinson (St. Mary's) are members of the Long Island Royals. Also picked were St. Anthony's James Mazza, who played for the New York Bobcats.

The USHL is a junior league based in the midwest.

DiChiara, a forward, went 26th overall in the second round to the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He spent last season with the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League and just recently committed to play for Princeton in 2013.

"This year I'm hoping to develop and get better so I can make that transition and become a dominant Division I hockey player," DiChiara said. "Hopefully after that I'll work hard enough to play and if it doesn't work out I walk out with a Princeton degree so it's a home run for me."

Hutchinson and Mazza were taken in the fourth round by the Tri-City Storm and the Youngstown Phantoms, respectively. Marnell went in the sixth round to the Des Moines Buccaneers and LaFontaine went in the 15th round to the Sioux City Musketeers.

Hutchinson, Marnell and LaFontaine, all juniors, won an Under-16 National Championship with the Long Island Royals this season, led by the coaching of LaFontaine's father, Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine.

"It's real exciting for the kids and the team with the exposure we received from our national championship," Pat LaFontaine said. "I think it's great for Long Island hockey. It gives younger players a chance to look at all five of these players and get excited about following them."

Marnell and Mazza, a senior, were both key members of St. Anthony's CHSAA State Championship team this season. Mazza said he is excited to be joining the elite junior league, which has produced NHL players like Kyle Okposo and Ruslan Fedotenko. Mazza will commit to a Division I college program in the fall.

"I think at this point it's a reward for hard work and I think it's the best route to get looked at professionally," Mazza said. "I found a new home and I'm looking forward to the season. It should be great."

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