BOISE — William Rapuzzi has heard all the commonly used phrases.
Everyone always says you cant take life for granted, the first-year Steelheads forward said. No regrets, all that stuff. I know I just kind of used to blow that stuff off.
Rapuzzi has had a different perspective since his college roommate and teammate, Scott Winkler, died June 12 in Norway at the age of 23.
I had talked to him the previous night (from Alaska), Rapuzzi said. There was a rumor going around. A guy on our team called me and asked, Did you hear what happened? I said it must have been a relative. Theres no way. I called over there, and his mom answered.
The rumor turned out to be reality.
The cause of Winklers death is still unknown.
They take a while over there with their autopsies, Rapuzzi said. Its kind of typical when you dont really know to assume something with the heart or the brain. Theyre not quite sure.
What Rapuzzi is sure of is that he lost a true friend.
We played against each other when we were 15 or 16, said Rapuzzi, now 23. So we played against each other in juniors, then in college we lived together.
The two played four years, side-by-side, at Colorado College.
He was really quiet when I first got to know him, but he really branched out the last few years, Rapuzzi said. He was friends with everyone, whether you were a young guy or an older guy. He just looked out for everyone. He was always happy. People always say that, but he really was one of those guys who never got too mad about anything.
Rapuzzi was the team captain during their senior year, and Winkler, a third-round selection in 2008 by the Dallas Stars, looked forward to beginning his pro career.
As it turned out, Idaho coach Brad Ralph had been recruiting the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Rapuzzi for a few months, and after the rookie signed with Idaho in September he got a chance to participate in an AHL camp with the Texas Stars, Idahos affiliate.
It was weird ending up in Texas camp, because thats where he would have been, Rapuzzi said. Hockeys a small world, and it just happened to play out that way.
Rapuzzi returned to Idaho after attending the Stars camp. He came into Wednesday nights game against Alaska with eight points (one goal, seven assists) through six games. Anthony Nigro (nine) was the only Steelhead with more points.
Were fortunate to have him, Ralph said. Hes been one of our best players here at the start of the season.
Rapuzzi said, in some ways, hockey has been therapeutic for him.
Hockeys great for me right now, he said. When youre at the rink, theres nothing else on your mind.
It didnt take long for Rapuzzi to make an impression on captain Justin Mercier.
When hes on the ice, good things happen, Mercier said. I think his friend would be proud of him, the way hes gone out there and played hard for him.
Said Ralph: Hes got a little bit of everything. Hes a good skater, hes got good hands, hes got a good shot. But I dont know that any one thing stands out other than his work ethic. His work ethic and his determination are by far his best qualities as a hockey player.
You could say Rapuzzi is driven by the memories of his fallen friend.
When you lose someone like that, its tough, he said. You really cant take anything for granted.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424