Rookie Hockey Players, Professional Friends

State University of New York at Potsdam sits about one hour south of the Canadian-U.S. border and enrolls around 3,900 undergraduates.

Potsdam being the small college that it is, has no football team, nor does it have a huge basketball arena. What Potsdam does have is a hockey team. From that team, two best friends have ventured to Knoxville, Tennessee to chase their pro-hockey dreams.

Brad Campagna and Jake Rivera were never really friends until both found out they had committed to SUNY-Potsdam to play hockey.

“I realized that he (Rivera) had committed to Potsdam, so in the game that we were playing I saw him in the face-off. I was like ‘hey man, I just committed to Potsdam’,” Campagna said with his best friend and once-again teammate Rivera standing next to him. “Literally right then, I knew I was going to be friends with the guy.”

“Going into school, we talked a bunch online,” River said.

Adding “We were both business majors, so we literally spent every second together. We had the same class schedule.”

Both hockey players who majored in business now turned pro, their similarities stretch beyond athletics and academics.

“We are pretty much the same person,” Rivera said as both friends gave a little laugh. “He (Campagna) is always looking out for everyone else’s best interest.”

During their time at Potsdam, defensemen Brad Campagna totaled 3 goal and 6 assists while forward Jake Rivera punched in 21 goals and 16 assists. Both look to use their talents and abilities to bring home the Knoxville Ice Bears fifth SPHL championship.

“First and foremost a championship,” Rivera stated about what he wants to bring to the Ice Bears. “There is nothing more important than that.”

The Ice Bears’ last SPHL championship came two seasons ago and was their fourth championship in 15 years as a professional hockey team.

With nearly eight newcomers and four of those being rookies, Campagna and Rivera look to bring a sense of team-first to the table for the Ice Bears.

“As a new guy, I want to keep it simple,” Campagna explained on what his goals are in his first season.

“Do the little things right. Do what I can for my teammates, for my coach and the staff,” Campagan added.

Rivera and Campagna were signed by the Ice Bears on Oct. 12th during Free Agent camp.

“It goes back to winning a championship and being able to do that alongside your best friend,” Rivera said. “I think that is what I’m most excited for.”

Jake Rivera scored his first professional goal on Saturday against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dogs, while Brad Campagna saw action on the defensive end for the Ice Bears.

A friendship that began with a simple conversation before a face-off, than grew in college, now finds itself with the Knoxville Ice Bears. The two rookie best friends will look to grow as teammates and hockey players, as they try to get the Ice Bears back to the SPHL championship.

“It’s beyond special,” Rivera said on being teammates out of college with Campagna.

Adding, “It’s something we never thought would happen.”

For more information on the Knoxville Ice Bears, go to knoxvilleicebears.com

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