By David Pavlak
This is part two of a four-part series on the goaltenders participating in Rider Athletics.
It’s game night at the Loucks Ice Center, and the Broncs have taken to the ice minutes before the puck is supposed to drop. After a quick skate around the ice surface, the team converges to the blue ice where its goalie resides. In the center of the crowd is senior Chris Dudo, who is the starting goaltender for the Broncs this year, and he is looking to lead his team back to the MACHA promise land this season by coming back to Rider with the championship in his hands.
This wasn’t always how it used to be though. Dudo had to wait his turn to get his share of ice time, as he played behind his longtime friend and former Bronc, Joe Nalbone. Dudo watched from the bench as Nalbone lost in both the MACHA championship two seasons ago and in the first round to Rowan last season. Dudo is looking to be the contributing factor in helping turn this season around for the Broncs, as they begin to get back on track.
“Honestly, last season is over and it’s time to focus on this season one game at a time,” Dudo said. “Although the loss was stunning, there’s no reason that this group of guys can’t blow past last season’s expectations. We just have to keep working and try to outwork the other team one play at a time.”
Four years ago, Dudo, who is an entrepreneurial studies major and a psychology minor, decided that Rider would be the college where he wanted to spend his next four years of higher education. Of course, having a hockey team probably didn’t hurt either.
“I picked Rider because of the great business program, and it was perfect that I could continue playing competitive hockey while getting an education,” he said. “I came to a team practice before I officially began my freshman year, and I was really impressed with the momentum of a real college practice.”
Dudo, who is from Warrington, Pa., began playing hockey at a young age and never looked back.
“I became involved in hockey when I was 10. I wanted to get involved in another sport besides Little League Baseball, and I just picked hockey. I started off with roller hockey since there was a rink and a league less than a mile from my house.”
He wasn’t always a goalie, however. After experimenting as a center, Dudo became a goalie simply because he was asked to one day.
“I played as a center for two years until one game, our goalie didn’t show up. My coach asked me to strap the pads on, and from that day I never looked back,” he said.
Dudo idolized former NHL goalie Byron Dafoe for his style on the ice and has tried to replicate the look and mannerisms of the ex-pro.
“He just had a certain personality and play to his game that I admired,” Dudo said. “I always thought that being a goalie was the only part of a sport that let your personality shine through your equipment. A lot of fans don’t know what players look like without their equipment or jersey on, but I wanted to represent myself through my gear so someone could recognize me either way.”
One of the ways Dudo does this is through the mask he wears on the ice. Dudo lives a “straight-edge” lifestyle, which means that he doesn’t use or abuse cigarettes, alcohol or illegal drugs. The back of his mask clearly states that, with the words “Drug Free XXX” marked in big black letters, with each ‘X’ standing for one of the many items Dudo choses to not use.
“I have never done anything along those lines, and that is something I pride myself on,” Dudo said. “I claimed this lifestyle in February of 2004 and I have never looked back. I am really proud to show my lifestyle to others because I like supporting the fact that it’s OK not to drink alcohol. It is now common knowledge to believe that everyone in college drinks, but I like being in the minority of students who choose not to party and drink. I wanted to be proud of being straight-edge and the ‘Drug Free XXX’ exemplifies that perfectly.”
The decision to live his life in this manner has alienated him a bit from his teammates and friends in the past, who may like to go out for a celebratory drink after a game. Dudo would not change anything about his decision, though, and is happy with how his life has turned out.
“Sports have actually been a little bit tough on me because of the peer pressure, but I have stayed true to my word this whole time,” Dudo said. “Of course, I missed some nights out during high school games, but nine times out of 10 I would just occupy myself with hockey on Friday nights instead of going out with my friends and dealing with the normal peer pressures a teenager goes through.”
With his last year of hockey at Rider just getting under way, Dudo is hoping to go out in a “blaze” of glory with his teammates.
“This is my senior year and I want to go out with a big win,” he said. “I want to enjoy my last year, and I think that is enough motivation to do all that I can to help the team as much as possible. I think we’re off to a great start and I know that we have the talent to make this year a success.”