Fort Wayne Komets’ Zac Larazza rested, ready for hot part of season
Everyone in Fort Wayne understands how cold this winter has been, but imagine what it must be like or a kid who grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., where it sometimes reaches 120 degrees in the summer?
If he didn’t have to practice so much at the Parkview IceHouse, Komets forward Zac Larraza would probably be struggling even more, but he’s learned to adjust over the years. He’s one of a handful of professional hockey players who grew up in Arizona.
“I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but there wasn’t much competition,” Larraza said. “There was me and three or four other kids who kind of dominated the Arizona hockey scene because there are not many kids playing. We were a pretty close group. It was always hard to find competition, but we’d go over to Los Angeles or Nevada or Texas. A lot of people don’t realize the Southwest was really competitive, and there’s a lot of NHL talent out of the Southwest.”
That talent includes the Komets’ Trevor Cheek.
“Yeah, I’ve known Zac for a long time,” Cheek said. “We’ve been playing together since we were 15.”
That group also includes 2016 NHL No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews. Larraza goes home every summer and trains with eight-to-10 players like Cheek and Matthews and several high-level college players.
“It’s kind of hard to find goalies and other players to help us out,” Larraza said.
Last week Larazza came off injured reserve to play well in two games to help the Komets improve to 14-1-1 over their last 16 games heading into back-to-back contests this weekend against Greenville. The first starts at 8 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.
“Having that head injury didn’t help and having to get back into shape is never fun, but it feels good to come back rested,” Larazza said. “I feel fresh when other guys are fighting some bugs and some stuff. I can be a fresh body out there, and it shows.”
He put out some big hits last weekend and played strong defense.
“We have a ton of offense, and to stay in the lineup on this team you’re going to have to do more than just score,” he said. “You’re going to have to play both ends of the ice now.”
Larazza is coming back in the hot part of the season, but he’s used to the heat, he said, and loves playing golf with his buddies.
Just like any Canadian player who leaves to play junior hockey, Larraza left home at age 16 to become part of the United States National Team Development program. That helped him earn a college career at Denver, and then his dream came true when he was drafted in the seventh round by the Arizona Coyotes in the 2011 NHL draft. The Komets are his seventh team in three seasons, but he signed with Tucson over the summer with the hope of remaining at home this year.
His long-time girlfriend works in the area, too. She visited over Christmas, but luckily for her, went home before the weather got too bone-chilling.