|(above) Unleash The Mermis|
From: The Telegraph
by Pete Hayes
Midway through the recently completed college hockey season, University of Denver freshman Jarrod Mermis had an epiphany:
"I started kind of slow," said Mermis, a former Alton High Redbird and Telegraph Hockey Player of the Year. "I was struggling in some areas. The coaches told me to simplify my game. They told me not to try and do too much with the puck."
Simple meant improved for Mermis, who turned his season around so much that he earned a permanent spot at left wing and last week was awarded the team's Murray Armstrong Memorial Award as its most improved player of the season.
"I was surprised," said Mermis, 21. "It really means a lot to me. I wasn't expecting to be recognized for anything like that."
Mermis received his award at the team's 55th annual Hockey Awards Night.
"It's important to me because my teammates voted on it," he said. "I kind of look at it as the Hardest Working Player Award, because if I was the most improved, I probably had to work the hardest."
After the decision to simplify his game, Mermis went from seeing action in just 10 games the first half of the season to playing in 20 games the second half. He had seven points on four goals and three assists, including key goals against St. Cloud State and Bemidgi State.
The University of Denver has one of the top NCAA Division I hockey programs in the nation with seven national championships, including back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.
This season was supposed to be a rebuilding one for the Pioneers, but they went 25-12-5 and came within a victory of advancing to the NCAA Finals — the Frozen Four. Denver lost to No. 2-ranked North Dakota 6-1 in the Midwest Regional final. It was the Pioneers' fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
"I thought our team performed unbelievably this year," Mermis said. "We had lost a lot of players from last year, but between the freshmen and upperclassmen, we shocked some people.
"Two weeks before (playing North Dakota in the regional final), we lost to them 3-2 in two overtimes," Mermis said.
Mermis has fallen in love with the school and with the city of Denver.
"I really like it in Denver," said Mermis, who is majoring in mathematics. "It's a great school and a great city. I'm so glad I came to Denver."
Even though hockey season is officially over, Mermis is putting his skates to use.
"I do about four workouts a week," he said. "I can't stay away from it."