“This place is just awesome,” Mercer told The Western Star Wednesday when asked about how things are unfolding for him in his rookie campaign in the United States Premier Hockey League, which is similar to the major midget structure in his native province.
Mercer, a 16-year-old Pasadena native who is a product of the Corner Brook minor hockey system, was a busy puckstopper at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame the past two winters.
At the end of his second season at Notre Dame, Mercer felt the early morning rises and late night study sessions were worth it. He believes he grew as a person having to fend for himself with no mom or dad around and he believes he’s a better goalie because of his decision to spend two years out west.
Being a Bandit is proving to be a great experience so far.
The team bowed out in the semifinal round of a big tournament back in September and opened the regular season — the only game the Bandits have played so far — with a 1-0 loss to the Junior Bruins in a game where the six-foot-three goaltender saw his team outshot 55-24.
Facing lots of rubber on a consistent basis was the norm for Mercer when he played at Notre Dame and he loves every minute of it because he believes every shot he faces helps him become better at his craft.
“That’s the way I like it,” he said.
He’s finding the school system in the United States much different than in Canada and admits it’s a lot harder, but he’s up to the challenge and figures he will adjust to it before long so he’s not going to worry about it.
His goaltending coach has encouraged him to keep his head in the game at all times and keeps his focus on the puck so he’s going to do just that, but he admits it’s a lot easier to be on top of his game when he really loves the environment he’s in.
A Level 2 student who attends Sacred Heart, a private school in Plymouth about 20 minutes outside of Boston, Mercer is thousands of miles away from the comforts of home and that’s not new to him so it’s not a huge deal.
However, he’s staying with a billet family that has a 14-year-old son who plays hockey and they are supporters of the Bandits and he couldn’t have asked for better people to welcome him to the community.
“They are really good people. They are so nice,” he said.
A hectic grind of tough academics and athletics has become the norm for this goaltender so he’s just going to continue striving for excellence one shot at a time.