Lucas Szyszka in goal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in August. Credit: Courtesy of Lucas Szyszka

There are a variety of reasons a recruited student-athlete chooses a particular school.

The coaching staff, the fanbase and the school’s traditions are popular reasons.

But goalie Lucas Szyszka from the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Illinois, had a unique reason for deciding to verbally commit to attending the University of Maine on a hockey scholarship.

“I love seafood,” said the 17-year-old Szyszka, pronounced “Siska” in English and “Sheeshka” in Polish.

Szyszka, who is currently playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League, said he discovered on his visit to Maine that lobster rolls are much less expensive and much tastier than the ones in Chicago.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Szyszka had played for the Premier Tier Chicago Mission AAA hockey program from the 13 and Under up through the 16-Under age groups before joining the Buccaneers this season.

He will most likely come to UMaine in the fall of 2023, although that could change.  

The seafood isn’t the only thing that attracted Szyszka to UMaine.

“The fanbase at Des Moines is rowdy but I heard it is even rowdier at Maine,” he said.

“And Maine has a long tradition of great goalies and I want to be the next great one,” he said.

UMaine has put 11 goalies into the National Hockey League, including three-time Vezina Trophy (best goalie) finalist Ben Bishop, long-time Detroit Red Wings goalie and 246-game winner Jimmy Howard, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, current Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman and UMaine goalie coach Alfie Michaud.

“I also loved the coaches,” Szyszka said. “There were so many good things about Maine.”

Jeff Hall, the goalie coach for Des Moines, said his first impressions of Szyszka are positive.

“He is a very good athlete. He is a natural goalie. He has the body type. He is flexible, fast and quick,” Hall said. “He is also confident and that is a big X factor for a goalie.”

He also said he has found him to be a coachable player who wants to improve.

Hall and Szyszka said the USHL will be an excellent developmental league for him because there are so many talented players in it who go on to play Division I hockey.

Szyszka said he intends to work on all aspects of his game, including tracking the puck more efficiently and adapting to the faster pace.

His coming to UMaine is contingent upon him being admitted into the school and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.