If New Jersey Devils fans did a double take seeing Stephen Gionta wearing his older brother Brian’s old number 14 Devils jersey, just imagine how surreal it will look as the older Gionta comes back to the Prudential Center Thursday night. Most Devils fans must be thankful they can once again get some use out of their number 14 Gionta jerseys as Stephen and Brian will likely face each other for the first time ever.
Though both Gionta’s have never faced each other before, they do have many striking similarities. Both grew up in Rochester, NY, both small but quick, both playing at Boston College, both got their professional starts with the Albany River Rats, both have worn the number 14 for the New Jersey Devils and both started this year as captain’s. Brian, the “Rochester Rocket,” became only the second American (Chris Chellios being the first) to be named captain of the Montreal Canadiens (28th overall), while Stephen started the year as the first ever captain of the brand new AHL Albany Devils.
Brian Gionta has one Stanley Cup (2002-03) and one 48 goal season in the NHL. During his time in Albany Gionta scored 14 goals in 52 games, his last season coming at the end of the 2004-05 lockout. Last season Brian helped guide the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals. In 19 games Gionta scored a career playoff high 15 points, including nine goals and six assists. This year Gionta has seven goals and eight assists for the 15-8-2 (32 points) Northeast Division leading Canadiens.
On the other side of things, Stephen Gionta making his NHL debut this season with the New Jersey Devils, is still looking for his first NHL point. Through ten contests thus far the younger Gionta has six PIM, 13 hits and ten shots on goal. Making his professional debut for the Albany River Rats during the 2005-06 season, Stephen Gionta started and finished with a flurry, netting five goals in three games, which included a hat-trick, with six points overall. After paying his dues, persistence has paid off for Stephen, who starting the year as Albany Devils captain, had two goals, three assists and five points in eight games.
Now Stephen will try to help the 8-14-2 (18 points) Devils knock off his brother’s team in New Jersey.
And what does the younger Gionta say of the chance on ice meeting with his brother? “If I do happen to get in the lineup, it’ll just be a great experience. It would just be something special to share with him.” I’m sure the feeling is mutual.
Below a highlight reel of Brian Gionta:
Stephen Gionta scores in the Albany Devils season opener earlier this season: