Ahead Of Schedule

When Mike Sisti recruited Meghan Agosta, outworking more prestigious schools, he knew he had enticed a franchise player to come to Mercyhurst.

But the 5-foot-6 sophomore has proven everyone wrong: She’s developed into one of the best forwards in the college (and international game) long before anticipated.

And there’s nowhere to go but up.

Currently her 2.23 points per game as well as her 58 points (36-22) in 26 contests are second only to Wayne State’s Melissa Boal, who averages 2.23 points a game. Agosta has 26 goals to Boal’s 21, and is first or second nationally in five categories.

Mercyhurst is, in fact, a scoring machine, averaging 4.10 points a game, third behind Minnesota-Duluth (4.12) and Wayne State (4.08).

Mercyhurst junior Valerie Chouinard is 12th in the nation in overall scoring (1.46 ppg) and many of the team’s other players are among the leaders in College Hockey America.

So Agosta is in good company, although her own success has opened up more scoring opportunities for her teammates.

“Without a doubt, she’s one of the best hockey players out there,” Sisti said of the Ruthven, Ont., native. “She’s always going to be that great, dominant player.”

But this soon? And at the international and collegiate levels?

During the recent European Air Canada Cup in Ravensburg, Germany, Agosta was named the top forward in the U-22 tournament, leading Canada to a gold medal with a stirring offensive show in which Agosta scored five goals and had seven assists, including a goal and two assists in the medal game against Finland.

“She’s a hero in her country,” Sisti pointed out.

“Whenever I’m able to represent my country I’m so proud,” Agosta said recently. “But I learned a lot from my college team.” Always a confident player, she said in Germany her belief in herself was even greater because she was one of the older players on the team and so more was expected of her.

“I’m always confident — I never go into a game nervous,” she said. “I knew I had a pretty good tournament but in the final game we had to work our way in,” she said. She also enjoyed bonding with players she normally faces in college — though Jones and Chouinard were also on the team, so there was some comfort zone in playing together.

Agosta said there are differences in the two levels of play. “I think the college game is a lot quicker,” she said.

She’s also a different player from last season.

“Last year she was younger and had to learn what college hockey is all about,” said Sisti. That learning is still going on, but she’s clearly graduated to the next level.

“The good thing is she’s getting better every day,” he said. “Last year, she had about the same numbers but she’s a much better hockey player this year because she’s learned how to train, and she’s continually improving her work ethic and working on playing when she doesn’t have the puck,” he said.

Jones said Agosta’s natural speed is her greatest asset, an observation Sisti confirmed.

She may have the quickest first three or four steps of anyone in her age group,” the coach said. “Her first couple steps are so quick; she is explosive.”

Jones said Agosta’s leadership is also more noticeable from last year, when the upperclassmen were more in control of the team, as they usually are.

“She knows the system and she knows the game better and has stepped into an off-ice leadership role as well,” Jones said. “She’s really grown as a player and now realizes her own strengths.”

“I’m not one to tell someone else what to do,” said Agosta, “but I’ll help someone become better.”

“A player of her magnitude and presence should be a leader,” added the coach.

Agosta has spent more time in the weight room and it shows, Sisti said. “She’s learning how to train.”

Agosta is also working on improving her defense. Too often an explosive offensive player is a little slow getting back on defense. But Agosta is set on continual improvement in all aspects of the game. “Coach has stressed skating back and picking up your man. In little things like that, I’m improving,” she said.

“Because she has this competitive drive, she wants to continue to improve and not rest on her laurels,” Sisti said.

“The key in hockey is learning each day,” said Agosta. “I knew the coaching staff here would make me a better player and still I have more than two years left.”

Mercyhurst, ranked sixth in the latest USCHO Division I poll, is 19-5-2 heading into games Feb. 8 and 9 against Wayne State, contests that should be high scoring affairs. Although the team is smart enough to focus on one game at a time, Agosta knows only through continuing improvement will they make the NCAA Final Eight and possibly beyond. They were beaten last year by Minnesota-Duluth in the quarterfinals.

A lot of that is on her shoulders, even though she’s surrounded by a bevy of talent.

“She’s definitely chipping away at becoming a very special player,” said Sisti.