July 9

Gladiators make Sarig, Buzzeo first signings of 2015-16


By: Christine Troyke

Published: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 

Gwinnett Gladiators fans know the name, but might not recognize Zach Sarig when he returns this season.

Sarig, who along with Justin Buzzeo became the first player signings announced by the team Wednesday, joined Gwinnett late last season and was immediately embraced by the fans for his long, flowing locks.

The dark brown curls which reached well past Sarig’s shoulders are gone now.

After growing out his hair for nearly three years, Sarig donated it all — more than a foot — to Wigs for Kids this summer.

But he’s already started the process again with a plan to make it a semi-annual tradition.

“It was hard to do, but it went to a great cause and that’s really why I wanted to do it,” Sarig said. “I won’t be cutting it again until I’m donating so I’m hoping to have some flow that hangs out (when I get back to Gwinnett). It grows pretty fast.

“Hopefully it translates to being faster on the ice,” he added with a laugh.The 24-year-old from Reading, Pa., came to the Gladiators on March 17 after completing his college career at Plymouth State and played 11 games for Gwinnett. The team was on a long road trip when he signed and Sarig didn’t play at home until March 27.

“My first experience was being in Orlando for a week, which was pretty cool,” he said. “And I really liked what (head coach Andy) Brandt was doing, really trying to build the community aspect and the culture. My college coach was like that. I liked the way we were headed.”

Sarig, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, was a physical presence on the back end for the Gladiators.

“He plays a simple game and he plays to his strengths,” Brandt said. “That doesn’t mean he doesn’t work on things, but what makes him so valuable to a team is he plays simply. He makes that good first pass. He blocks shots. He finishes every check.

“He’s a big, strong kid. Last year, everyone just saw his hair, but he is a physical force. And he can fight. We didn’t see that here, but he has that edge to his game.”

Over his last three seasons at Plymouth State, Sarig averaged nearly a point per game, including 27 points in 28 games as a senior captain. That total led all defenseman in the conference.

“Division III players get overlooked a little bit,” Brandt said. “But he does all the little things right and he’s a coachable player. He wants to improve his game.”

Brandt’s wife, Ashley, was in the master’s program at Plymouth State and Brandt spent some time on campus training during his pro career. He got to know the Panthers’ coach, Craig Russell, and has maintained that relationship over the years.

“He called me toward the end of last season and said he had a kid who deserved a look,” Brandt said.

Sarig jumped right into the lineup for a Gwinnett team that struggled mightily in 2014-15 until a glut of roster changes down the stretch began to turn things around.

“A lot of guys came in in the same boat I did, trying to get classes finished and adjust to this new pro life,” Sarig said. “It’s hard to balance, but we all really wanted to prove ourselves and get the team back on a winning track.

“The first game, things were definitely faster and everyone is strong. At school it was easier for me to push guys around, but toward the end, I got more and more comfortable. I was kind of sad to see it end because I felt like I was just getting going. So I’m looking forward to coming back.”

Buzzeo also was part of that late-season collegiate infusion brought in by Brandt.

The 25-year-old winger joined Gwinnett following a productive career at Ferris State and had four points in seven games here. In his four seasons at Ferris State, Buzzeo racked up 68 points, including a team-high 32 as a junior, in 122 games.

“Buzz is a complete player,” Brandt said. “He’s got good puck skills and he plays with a little nasty streak in him, which I love. He finishes his hits, but he’s got the skill to go with it.”