After being released by Dornbirner EC in Austria on January 7, Ontario Hockey League grad Justin DiBenedetto has found a hockey home for the remainder of 2014-15 in Italy with Ritten/Renon (Rittner Baum). DiBenedetto joins fellow OHL alumnus Dan Tudin with the club. Tudin has played for Ritten since 2006-07.
DiBenedetto played five years in the OHL from 2004-05 to 2008-09. His first two years were with the Toronto Majors and his final three were with the Sarnia Sting. The Majors drafted him 18th overall at the 2004 OHL Priority Selection.
Justin’s OHL totals include 132 goals and 156 assists for 288 points over 303 regular season games. In his final season, he scored 45 and assisted on 48 for 93 points over 62 games. He placed third in goals behind John Tavares of the Generals/Knights and Brett Parnham of Oshawa. DiBenedetto also placed third in the race for the Eddie Powers Trophy behind Tavares and Chris Terry of the Plymouth Whalers. He was awarded the Leo Lalonde Trophy as the OHL’s top overage player and was named an OHL Second Team All-Star.
The New York Islanders selected Justin in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, 175th overall. His first pro action came in 2008-09 after the Sting were eliminated from the Robertson Cup playoffs, appearing in three Calder Cup playoff games in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
DiBenedetto played in his only eight National Hockey League games in 2010-11 with the Islanders. He wore the ‘A’ for Bridgeport in 2010-11 and 2011-12 before crossing the Atlantic for 2012-13. Since, he has played exclusively in Europe in Austria’s EBEL, Sweden’s SHL and Finland’s Liiga.
2014-15 started for Justin in the EBEL with Dornbirner EC. Before being released on January 7, he appeared in 26 games, scoring three goals and assisting on eight. According to the Ritten website, DiBenedetto was also considering an offer from a team in Sweden but chose the to stay in the Italian Alps instead.
The 36 year old Tudin played four years in the Ontario Hockey League from 1995-96 to 1998-99 with the Ottawa 67’s. In his final year, the 67’s won the Memorial Cup championship after qualifying through the back door as tournament host. Ottawa beat the Calgary Hitmen in the final 7-6 in overtime. The Belleville Bulls also represented the OHL while Roberto Luongo and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan went winless and allowed 12 goals in their three games.
Undrafted to the NHL, Dan played four years for Dalhousie University before turning pro for the 2003-04 season. Since, he has played in the ECHL, AHL and LIHG. In 2005-06 with the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL, Tudin finished tied for eighth in the league with 33 goals and tenth in points with 77.
Dan has played with Rittner Baum in Italy since 2006-07. To date, he has totalled 412 points in 344 LIHG regular season games. Tudin has also played internationally for Italy since 2011-12. At the 2012 IIHF World Championships, Italy finished 15th of 16 and was relegated. In 2014, it was the identical result.
Known as Rittner Baum, the team is currently in third place, behind HC Asiago and HC Pustertal. They have been around since 1984-85 and 2013-14 was their first LIHG Serie A1 championship after losing in the finals in 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10.
Rittner Baum plays home games at Arena Ritten in Collalbo, Italy. The venue seats 2,000 and was opened in 2004. The town is located in Northern Italy near the border with Austria.