Pompano’s a Freshman Sensation for East Haven
Coming in as a freshman, Gennaro Pompano saw that East Haven co-op hockey team had winless record last year and knew that something had to be done. Gennaro has made an immediate impact with the Yellowjackets this season, leading the team in points and helping get East Haven back into the Division II State Tournament.
Gennaro began skating when he was three years old before he started playing hockey at age four. He was introduced to hockey by his father Ray. While Gennaro’s father didn’t play the sport, he always loved hockey. As Gennaro has grown on the ice, his dad has always been by his side.
“My dad was never able to play, but he loved the sport. He got me on the ice and helped me get a feel for the stick. It made me grow a love for the game,” says Gennaro. “He loved having me and giving me an opportunity to do something he couldn’t. He was there with me every step of the way. It’s awesome to have him and to have him take me through this journey.”
After participating in East Haven’s learn-to-skate league, Gennaro joined the Greater New Haven Warriors when he was in mites. He would return back to East Haven for squirts. Once he joined pee-wees, Gennaro made the move to Tier 1 hockey and started playing for the Connecticut Junior Huskies. For his last three years of youth hockey, Gennaro played for the Connecticut Junior Whalers.
The jump to playing Tier 1 hockey proved pivotal in Gennaro’s development, allowing him to see the level of competition in the state and what he would be facing during the forthcoming years. It also allowed him to meet new people and get a better sense of the hockey community. After playing for the Junior Huskies, Gennaro realized that he had a real talent for hockey and could potentially play at higher levels.
Gennaro’s first step was to join the East Haven co-op hockey squad as a freshman. Entering the year, Gennaro was fully aware of the team’s 0-4 record during the truncated 2020-’21 season. As soon as he stepped on the ice, Gennaro was determined to help the Easties show everyone how good they could be.
“I played in East Haven before, so I knew some of the guys. Coming into the season, I was confident. I knew what I was getting into. I came on knowing that last year we had zero wins. I knew this year we had to change that. This can’t be a winless team,” Gennaro says. “I came in confident and, throughout the year, I’ve only gotten more confident. I knew my job was to put pucks in the net and score goals for the team. I’m going to keep doing that.”
Gennaro has plenty of experience with putting pucks in the net. Gennaro has played forward for most of his career, switching between center and wing. When he’s racing down the ice with the puck on his stick, Gennaro takes a careful look at his surroundings before finding the best way to attack.
“It’s an unforgettable feeling. I’m looking at the net, I’m looking at the goalie, the defenseman in front of me. I have this puck, and I want to take it to the net,” says Gennaro. “I want to score a goal. If I do that and put the puck in the net, it’s such a great feeling. You love to have it.”
Gennaro has helped East Haven get back into the playoffs with a 9-5-1 record thus far this winter. The freshman forward is leading the Yellowjackets in points with 42 on the year, having scored 25 goals to go with 17 assists. While he may be going up against seniors, Gennaro has a great understanding of the game’s physicality and tries to use his speed to get by defenders.
Although he’s only coached him for a couple of months, East Haven Head Coach Lou Pane believes that Gennaro is a special hockey player. Pane says that the Gennaro shines in numerous areas on the ice and has the potential to play college hockey at the top level.
“Gennaro is certainly a one-of-a-kind player. He has exceptional skating skills, hands, and vision. His work ethic is truly admirable,” Pane says. “He practices as hard as he plays. It’s so important for players to have that want to play at the next level, which Gennaro certainly will. He will be on a prep school roster next year and hopefully continue on as a Division I hockey player.”
After playing in East Haven when he was younger, Gennaro already knew some of the people who’ve now become his teammates in his freshman season. Gennaro says that it’s been great to reconnect and that everyone always has a blast both on and off the ice. Hockey has become Gennaro’s true passion, and he feels fortunate to share that passion with his Yellowjackets’ teammates.
“It means everything,” says Gennaro. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid. I’ve grown to love the sport. It means so much to me to play it and to play with these guys.”