Yale’s Nick Maricic is no stranger to the big stage

PITTSBURGH — The opportunity to play for a national championship is a big deal, but to play for a world championship? Arguably bigger, even when the game is played on a plastic surface instead of ice.

Yale senior goaltender Nick Maricic was one of the two starters for the U.S. National Inline Team in last year’s IIHF Inline Hockey World Championships in Ingolstadt, Germany, last June. He split time in net with former Western Michigan goaltender Jerry Kuhn (2008-11) and went 3-0 in the tournament.

“We were upset by Finland in the championship,” said Maricic, a native of Alta Loma, Calif., a suburb of Rancho Cucamonga, about 45 miles east of Los Angeles.

“In Southern California, the inline skating was a really big fad after the ‘Mighty Ducks’ movies came out,” Maricic said. “It was the cool thing to do. Everybody was playing street hockey. It exploded in Southern California in the mid-’90s.

“There aren’t as many rinks in Southern California as there are in the northeast, but there are a lot of parking lots.”

Yale’s Nick Maricic isn’t expected to play Saturday, but if needed, he has some big-game experience (photo: Melissa Wade).

Maricic was invited to try out for the U.S. National Team after playing in an amateur tournament two summers ago. He says he’s been playing both ice and inline hockey since strapping on the blades a few years after starting on the streets of Southern California. He enjoys both games and said there are key differences between the two.

“Inline’s four-on-four, but you play on the big NHL-size sheet, Maricic said. “There’s a lot of time for guys to develop stickwork and hands, and you see a lot of patience. I have to anticipate the play better. You can’t get back and slide as well. It’s a different game. It’s more north-south than east-west. It’s probably a little slower because guys are more patient. The scoring chances are much higher quality.”

Maricic, who backs up Yale starter Jeff Malcolm, plans on trying out for the U.S. National Team again in May, when he hopes to be teamed again with Quinnipiac senior defenseman Loren Barron, who played for the team last year. Barron is from Glendora, Calif. — about 20 miles west of Rancho Cucamonga.

The U.S. National Inline Team is coached by former Miami defenseman Joe Cook (1991-93). The team won gold medals in 1996, 1997, 2004, 2006 and 2010.