TAMPA, Fla. — When he played with the Portage Terriers, Shaquille Merasty was one of the most feared players in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
He could fight if he had to, but at 6-foot-3, 200-pounds nobody really wanted to fight him. He could skate, score and was one of the best playmakers in the MJHL. He had all the tools.
He’d even finished high school before he finished his MJHL career. He’d have made a great NCAA Division 1 player.
However, because there aren’t many D-1 scouts around the MJHL, Merasty never really got noticed. Despite playing only 38 games because a couple of serious injuries, Merasty finished 21st in league scoring with 30 goals and 30 assists.
Still, he led the Terriers to the 2012 Turnbull Cup, emblematic of the MJHL championship and he did get a sniff from one U.S. College – a Division 3 school in Adrian, Mich.
For most young hockey players that might not be a big deal, but Shaq Merasty, with some financial help from his band, Berens River First Nation, made it a big deal. He chose to attend Adrian College and he’s made a gigantic impact on the game. In fact, this past week, he was named to the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association All-Conference team, and All-Freshmen team.
In fact, Merasty was so good this season, he not only led Adrian College to the conference title, he helped head coach Ron Fogarty win MCHA Coach of the Year honors for the third time in his career. Adrian went 17-0-3 and won the MCHA’s Harris Cup for the sixth year in a row.
There was never any doubt in Forgarty’s mind that Merasty was a perfect fit for Adrian.
Merasty first impressed Fogarty and his assistant Stavros Paskaris at the MJHL Showcase in October of 2011.
“He had a great game,” Fogarty told the Adrian Daily Telegram. “So we followed him the second day of the showcase, and he was just as dynamic.”
In total, Fogarty and paskaris visited Manitoba three times over the next two seasons. The spring after their third visit, Merasty phoned Fogarty and was ready to come onboard.
“I’m happy that he’s here,” Fogarty said. “There’s no question he could play at the Division I level. We’ve benefited that they didn’t pursue him.”
In a sense that’s too bad. In another sense, Merasty has taken this current opportunity by the horns and run with it.
“It’s been really good here,” Merasty said via cell phone from Adrian. “Coach Ron Fogarty has given me a great opportunity to step in with the Top 6 forwards and I’ve been able to take advantage of it. I’ve learned a lot, played a lot and I really feel I’ve gotten better.”
Born in Thompson, he spent much of his younger days living with his grandmother in Minnedosa, Man. He was an outstanding Triple A midget player and just got better and better while playing for head coach Blake Spiller in Portage. The Terriers won two Turnbull Cups and an ANAVET Cup with Merasty in the lineup and as Fogarty said, he would have made a great Division I player.
As it is, Merasty finished 10th in all of Division III hockey with an average of 1.37 points per game. He hads 21 goals and 16 assists in 27 games and was second in Division III with five game-winners. He’s Fogarty’s kind of player.
“He loves to compete and has a nasty streak,” Fogarty said. “His vision is very good. He’s a very smart, creative hockey player and very unselfish.”
Adrian is currently ranked No. 6 in the NCAA Division III National Rankings with a record of 23-1-3 and will open the national tournament in Lake Placid, N.Y., as an automatic conference champion qualifier on March 15.
“The coaches told me to try to get on the score sheet,” said Merasty. “Coach Fogarty has given me a chance to try and produce some offense. It’s been going in for me lately. I’ve just been trying to get a lot of shots on goal, and they’ve been finding the back of the net.”
Merasty combines speed, skill, size, intelligence and toughness into the perfect U.S. college player. He also has an open mind, listens to his coaches and wants to get better.
“The best part was that I was able to make a smooth transition,” Merasty said. “Once I got here and we started skating and I got to know the other guys, I just really got on a roll and so did the team. I have a great coaches and great teammates and that made the transition from the MJHL to here pretty easy.”
Fogarty, meanwhile, can hardly believe his good fortune.
“He has a lot of confidence right now,” Fogarty said. “His confidence is derived from hard work. He’s one of the first guys on the ice and one of the last guys to leave the ice in practice. You can see that he’s working on the little things in his game in order to improve.”
It’s sort of what he’s always done. Thanks to a great family, a supportive First Nation and a grandmother who cared deeply about him, Shaq Merasty is growing into one of the most interesting hockey prospects in North America.
2012-13 MCHA All-Conference (Alphabetically by position)
Forward: Zach Graham (Adrian College, Senior)
Forward: Jordan Keizer (MSOE, Senior)
Forward: Tyler Klein (Marian University, Junior)
Forward: Shaquille Merasty (Adrian College, Freshman)
Forward: Brad Scurfield (Lawrence University, Senior)
Forward: Brad Tierney (MSOE, Senior)
Defense: Brandon Boelter (Lawrence University, Freshman)
Defense: Mitch Kriz (Marian University, Senior)
Defense: Mike Montrose (Finlandia University, Junior)
Defense: Michael Thompson (MSOE, Junior)
Defense: Brady Vandenberk (Northland College, Senior)
Goalie: Scott Shackell (Adrian College, Sophomore)
Goalie: Brendan Sullivan (Lake Forest College, Senior)
Coach of the Year: Ron Fogarty (Adrian College)