Every week leading up to October 13, the “Rookie Round-Up” will give ECHL fans the chance to get to know a Rookie player that has signed with an ECHL team for the 2017-18 Season. For this week’s piece, the ECHL spoke with Shaq Merasty of the Wichita Thunder - get to know him in this Q&A!
Name: Shaq Merasty
Hometown: Minnedosa, MB
ECHL Team: Wichita Thunder
2016-17 Team: University of Manitoba (26 GP, 8G, 13A, 21 PTS)
ECHL: What made you decide to sign with the Thunder?
Shaq Merasty: My (University of Manitoba) Bison coach received a call from the coach in Wichita, Malcolm Cameron, and they had a pretty good chat. He (Cameron) reached out to me over the summer and we had a few good phone conversations. We talked and it seemed like a good conversation, a good fit, like I'd be getting a good opportunity there. From there I just let my agent deal with the contract part and it just kind of went from there.
ECHL: What should the Thunder and ECHL fans know about you – on-ice or off-ice?
SM: One thing some people don't know about me is I'm a big ball hockey guy. I actually represented Team Canada this past June at the 2017 World Ball Hockey Championships. In the off-season, I'm usually playing a lot of ball hockey and that helps with my cardio and it's a good experience- it's a great sport and a great way to stay in shape.
ECHL: When you were younger and first got into hockey - was it ball hockey or ice hockey first?
SM: It was ice hockey first. I actually didn't start playing ball hockey till about summer of 2014, so about three years ago. In the off-season I work and train in Winnipeg because that's where I've been going to school the last three years. I have some family here and my girlfriend lives here as well. A couple of my old former teammates that I played junior hockey with, I knew they played ball hockey. They told me to come out to a couple of runs and I just kind of progressed from there. We have a league here in Winnipeg that runs from May through July and that prepares us for Worlds and also prepares Team Manitoba for Canadian Ball Hockey Championship.
ECHL: What about on the ice, how would you describe your game?
SM: I like to think I'm more of a power forward - I'm obviously a big body being 6'5, 220. I like to take the puck to net, be hard to play against and hard to move in front of the net. I feel like I have a good shot, so I try to use my quick release and get pucks on net. Hopefully a couple go in this year! I like to finish all my checks and be good in the defensive zone. I know coaches love that, so you always have to take care of your zone and then everything else comes from there.
ECHL: What are you most looking forward to in your rookie season?
SM: I’m looking forward to getting into camp and meeting all the guys. It's going to be an exciting time and everyone's going to be itching to get going. It's going to be tough - camps are physically and mentally tough on you - but I feel like I'm ready, I've been working hard throughout the summer. And of course looking forward to the first professional game – being a rookie, it will be a new experience for me, so I can’t wait for that.
ECHL: Aside from finishing school and Ball Hockey Championships, any other highlights from the summer?
SM: I’ve been spending a lot of time with my girlfriend, she's going to be staying back and attending university classes back in Canada. I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the gym, and on the ice, especially this month. Along with one of my old coaches, we've got a good group of guys here in Winnipeg. We go out and he puts us through the paces on ice. So I’ve been working out in the gym four or five times a week and on the ice three times a week.
ECHL: Up until this point, what has been your proudest hockey moment?
SM: I’d have to say winning the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Title back to back years in 2011 and 2012 with the Portage Terriers where I played junior hockey.
ECHL: Do you know any of your teammates in Wichita?
SM: I haven't really connected with any yet. I do know one guy from Winnipeg who recently signed there - Justin Hamonic. We're going to be skating together throughout the next couple weeks here. I know who he is and I'll be familiar with one face at least so at least I have someone that I know.
ECHL: Any last words for the ECHL and Thunder fans?
SM: I like to let my performance on the ice do most of my talking for me but I’m looking forward to getting to camp and getting this season started!