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Plum native enjoys German hockey stint

Plum native Sergio Somma relishes the chance to play against a high level of competition in front of rabid, chanting fans, earn a decent paycheck and travel to places he normally wouldn't see.

Somma admitted the Deutsche Eishockey Liga isn't on the radar of many North American hockey fans, but he's satisfied with his European adventure.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound left winger is enjoying a productive season for Augsburger Panther, a team in Germany's premier pro hockey league.

Somma has collected 13 goals — second on the team — and 13 assists in 35 games for his squad, which is based in the city of Augsburg, Bavaria.

"I like to talk about it because I think a lot of people are like, 'What's he doing over there?' " said Somma, 24, whose long-range goal is to reach the NHL.

"I went with my heart and guidance from people I knew and my agent. I battled with it, but it was the right decision for me. It's a great opportunity to play in a great league. I get to play against a high level of competition right away. Hopefully, this helps in the long run."

Recently, Somma missed a few games because of a knee injury that didn't require surgery. He's expected to return to the lineup this week.

Last season, Somma completed his career at Ohio State with 54 goals and 50 assists in 159 games. Afterward, he got a small taste of the American Hockey League, the primary developmental circuit for the NHL, when he appeared in five games for the Chicago Wolves at the end of the season.

"Germany was always on the back burner as an option," Somma said. "A couple of things didn't pan out (in the United States), so I decided to go through with it."

Somma believes competition in the DEL, which features many players who have had at least a short stop in the NHL, is comparable to the AHL. One of his teammates, right winger John Zeiler, also is from Pittsburgh and has appeared in four seasons for the Los Angeles Kings.

Somma signed a one-year contract, with an option for a second season. He declined to disclose his salary but said, "This is my first year out of college, I'm single, and I'm not making a whole lot of money, but I won't need to get a job in the summer."

The Augsburger Panther organization also provides him with an apartment and a car, while he pays for his food and entertainment.

The language barrier hasn't been a major obstacle most of the time, Somma said.

"I speak a little German, phrases and words, but I couldn't have a conversation," he said. "I can order a really good hot chocolate."

Somma has enjoyed playing in Germany for reasons in addition to his success. For starters, the ice surface in Europe is larger, giving players a better chance to display their speed and skills.

Augsburger Panther plays its home games at Curt Frenzel Stadium, which is covered by a roof but is open to the air on its sides and seats nearly 8,000. Somma has fallen in love with fans of the 14-team league.

"They are unbelievable," he said. "It's fun to play home and away games. The crazy chants they do are like (European) soccer games."

This spring, he plans to finish his bachelor's degree in sport leadership and humanities at Ohio State and start working out for the 2012-13 campaign.

Somma's not sure where he'll be playing next season, but he isn't opposed to returning to Germany.

"I've always wanted to play pro hockey as long as I can," he said. "I'd like to try to get to the NHL. If I get the right opportunities, I can prove myself."

Additional Information:

Sergio Somma file

Hometown: Plum

Sport: Hockey

Position: Forward

League: Deutsche Eishockey

Notable: Graduated from Plum High School in 2005. ... Led Ohio State in goals (20) and tied for team lead in points (34) as a senior in the 2010-11 season. ... Quick, crafty player shoots left-handed.

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