Shaquille Merasty has always been a goal scorer. It comes naturally to him.
But even he never expected to become one of the top scoring threats in NCAA Division III college hockey as a freshman.
Yet with the regular season out of the way and the postseason on the horizon, the 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pound Adrian forward has been nothing short of stellar during his first season with the Bulldogs.
In 25 games, Merasty has punched the puck into the net 25 times and racked up 14 assists. He is first on the team in goals scored, and is tied for 11th nationally in points. His goal total is the second-best in the country.
“I always knew I was a pretty good scorer, but I didn’t expect to do as well as I have this year,” Merasty said. “I’ve been able to hold my own, and I’ve worked hard to put myself in a position to be successful. I was nervous when I first started playing, but I have good teammates around me, and I take advantage of the opportunities I get.”
Adrian coach Ron Fogarty is certainly thankful he was able to recruit Merasty, who has helped the Bulldogs win their sixth consecutive Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association championship and finish unbeaten in conference play for the third time in program history at 17-0-3.
“He has done a great job of transitioning to the college game,” Fogarty said. “He was given an opportunity to be in a scoring role for us, and he has made the most of it. He is a very skilled player, and is very tough when he has time and space to score.”
Merasty is from Manitoba, and hockey has always been his favorite sport. He did play basketball as well, but it didn’t compare to hockey, which he started playing at a young age.
“Hockey has always been my main sport; I started playing when I was 4 or 5 years old,” Merasty said. “I had people in my family who played the game, and so I grew up around the sport. It’s always been a big part of my life, especially being from Canada, where hockey is such a big deal.”
In 2009, Merasty graduated from Minnedosa Collegiate High School, but rather than go straight to college, he chose to play junior hockey.
Merasty latched on with the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and played with the Terriers until 2012. His junior career was a huge success. Merasty scored 78 goals and tallied 60 assists while in Portage, and turned in his best season in 2011-12, when he scored career-highs in goals (30) and assists (30).
The demands that come with playing junior hockey helped shape Merasty into the player he has become at Adrian.
“I learned a lot about being ready to play every single night,” Merasty said. “The last two years of my junior career, I was part of a lot of playoff success. We played a lot of extra games, and that experience helped me prepare for college hockey.”
He did however, need to adjust to the physicality of the college game and a decidedly different schedule.
“You only play twice a week, so you have a lot of time to think about your next game,” Merasty said. “It took time to get used to the way the game is played in college, but I’ve gotten more comfortable as I’ve gone along and I’m playing well.”
Merasty caught the attention of Fogarty at a showcase in Manitoba and knew Adrian was interested in him, but he opted to wait until the spring to make his decision on where he would play college hockey.
“Ron came to watch me play last year and I made my decision to play there in May,” Merasty said. “It’s been a lot of fun. Adrian has a great winning tradition, and I wanted to be a part of a program that was going to be successful. I’m happy with how things have worked out.”
His success however, didn’t come overnight. Merasty said the extra time he has spent on the ice making himself a better player over the years has been vital to his success with the Bulldogs.
“I have a good work ethic,” Merasty said. “I’ve worked hard to become a better all-around player on offense and defense. I’ve also worked a lot on being more consistent. I’ve made a lot of improvements, but I am always working to be even better.”
The next step for the Bulldogs is the Harris Cup at the beginning of March. Adrian is hoping to punch a ticket to the NCAA tournament as well.
While success for Merasty and the Bulldogs hasn’t been in short supply this season — the Bulldogs are on a 15-game unbeaten streak — becoming complacent isn’t an option.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” Merasty said. “We have to stay focused on the next game and not worry about what we’ve already done. We have high expectations as a team, and we know that we have to be at our best if we want to accomplish all of our goals.”
While Merasty is looking forward to helping the Bulldogs succeed in the postseason, he also has his mind set on one day becoming a professional hockey player.
“I haven’t put a lot of thought into it right now, but it’s definitely something I want to do some day,” Merasty said. “If I keep working hard and playing my best hockey, I’m hopeful that I will be able to make the jump to pro hockey at some point. It would be a great opportunity.”