Aaron Mercer is finding life harder than ever in his pursuit of excellence in the crease.
However, he has no qualms about the struggles because he knew the journey was going to get tougher as he moved closer to the dream of playing National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 hockey in the United States.
Mercer, a 17-year-old former goalie with the Western Kings AAA bantam hockey program, is in his rookie season with the Boston Bandits Junior A hockey club in the United States Premier Hockey League.
It is the Pasadena native’s second year with the Bandits organization.
Life with the Bandits is all about finding his way to the top. He hits the ice five days a week for practice and dryland training and weekends are all about playing games.
Mercer isn’t keeping up on the academic side of things in a classroom setting like the rest of his teammates so that’s something he has found hard to get used to this winter.
He has had to settle for doing a bunch of courses online because the Bandits practice daily at noon. He believes he wouldn’t be able to work hard to keep his spot with the team if he was getting up every morning to attend classes like his teammates.
He misses going to class like anybody else, especially when his teammates are always talking about their day in school when they show up the rink.
The actual work isn’t what challenges him. The biggest thing for him is getting the mindset that he has a lot of work to do and he must find a way to buckle down and get it done.
It is getting easier so he’s feeling a lot better about keeping up his grades and still trying to be an effective goalie when it’s his time to take the crease.
“School hasn’t always been my strongest suite,” he said. “It’s fine. I’m getting it done.”
On the ice, he finds himself trying to earn more time in the crease with 19-year-old Raphael Provencher playing the bulk of the games.
He’s just trying to remain patient and understanding because he knows how it goes when it comes to sharing up the duties.
He admits there is no reason for him to get bent out of shape about his playing time and a 6-2 record because the other guy is getting the job done. He is quickly learning how to be a supportive teammate, which is just as important to him as it is to making big saves for his team when he gets the call.
“It’s not like I’m getting shafted,” he said of his playing time in the net.
Thousands of miles away from home has required a period of adjustment for him. He misses the heavy snowfalls and beautiful scenery western Newfoundland is known for.
Home is a place he can always go back to. That keeps him focused on what lured him away from home in the first place.
Many pro hockey players found their way to the top through the college hockey system. They’ve gone through similar struggles and challenges.
He’s never thought about packing up the goalie gear and heading home. He is in it for the long haul. He has invested a lot of time so he’ll continue doing the things he believes will get him to his final destination.