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Highly-Touted Russian Joins the River Hawks

January 16, 2012

The River Hawks have snapped up a highly-touted 17-year-old Russian defenseman who will become the youngest player in Division I hockey when he plays his first Hockey East game.

Dima Sinitsyn, a 6-2, 190-pound — “He’s actually a little bigger than that,” said coach Norm Bazin — NHL prospect with strong offensive skills, began practicing with the River Hawks after enrolling at UMass Lowell earlier today. As soon as Bazin thinks Sinitsyn is ready to play in a league where many players are six and seven years older than he is, he’ll be inserted into the 14th-ranked River Hawks’ lineup.

“Hopefully it’s this year,” Bazin said. “Right now he looks like a kid who had been traveling for 18 hours to get here. We have to give him some time to get acclimated.”

Sinitsyn had been home in Moscow since playing his last game for the Dallas, Texas, Under-16 Team last March in a national midget tournament. Sinitsyn led his midget team in scoring with 11 goals and 31 points in 36 games. Bazin’s assistants, Jason Lammers and Cam Ellsworth, both scouted him while he was playing midget hockey in the Lone Star State “and have an understanding of what he is,” Bazin said.

According to the United States Hockey Report, Sinitsyn was selected in the U.S. Hockey League draft by the Green Bay Gamblers last spring. But the Gamblers were over the league limit for foreign junior players and traded his rights to the Sioux Falls Stampede. But Sinitsyn’s student visa had expired after he graduated from high school in Dallas, and he was unable to obtain another one.

Bazin and his staff spent the last couple of months trying to arrange a visa for him, and they finally did.

“I’ve had experience with recruits from  France, Norway, and Sweden,” Bazin said. “But this is the first time we’ve tried dealing with Russia, and I never knew it could be this difficult.”

Getting Sinitsyn is believed to be a recruiting coup for UMass Lowell. Had Bazin and his staff not done the work to get him into school now, the River Hawks likely would have lost him to a more high-powered Division I school. An NHL scout told the United States Hockey Report that Sinitsyn is likely to be selected in the NHL draft in June.

“We want to be aggressive in our recruiting efforts,” said the first-year UML coach, “and when you see someone who fits your blueprint for the future you have to go after him.”

Sinitsyn’s mother teaches English in Russia and she wanted him to attend college in the U.S.

“He’s trilingual, articulate, intelligent, and a wonderful student,” Bazin said.

And, apparently, one heckuva hockey player.

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