Hard work has paid off for the Langley Rivermen's leading scorer.
The junior A hockey team announced this week the commitment of Mario Puskarich to the University of Vermont for 2013.
In his second season on the Rivermen, the 20-year-old Puskarich is off to a great start, leading the team in scoring with seven goals and seven assists in 14 games.
"We are excited as an organization for Mario as he has put in a lot of hard work since arriving at the beginning of last season," Rivermen associate head coach Jordan Emmerson said. "He has been working non-stop on and off the ice, and really deserves this."
W The Vermont R Catamounts ice hockey team is a Division One program that plays out of the competitive Hockey East conference. The Catamounts have appeared in the NCAA Men's hockey championship five times in their history and have made two trips to the Frozen Four with the most recent one coming in 2009. Vermont has produced current NHL stars such as Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning), Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins), and Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), as well as former NHL'er John LeClair (Philadelphia Flyers).
"Vermont is a very good program that plays out of one of the best conferences in college hockey and [is] now just a few years removed from the Frozen Four," Emmerson said.
Puskarich has continued to develop his all-around game, but Emmerson says there is one aspect that stands out.
"He scores goals - it's just as simple as that. Mario is one of the top three returning goal scorers in the league with 31 goals [in 2011/12] and yes, he may have not gotten off to the start he would of liked to in the first couple games, but he is back to his old ways and is now leading our team in scoring."
The Florida native came into this year with the right attitude, which impressed the coaches. He eventually was named an assistant captain in his final BCHL season.
"Mario has shown throughout the summer his commitment to the program and to himself to become a better hockey player and it has translated into the season he is having," Emmerson said. "He is a great leader, whether it is saying the right things in the dressing room, being the first one in the gym, or out on the ice blocking shots and doing whatever it takes to win.
He sets a good example to our younger players."
With his commitment, the Rivermen now have a total of seven players that have signed to a college or university, as Puskarich joins Bo Pellah (Penn State), Logan Smith (Holy Cross), Evan Campbell (UMass-Lowell), Austin Azurdia (UConn), Thomas Nitsche (Colgate), and Viktor Dombovskiy (Yale).
Catch Puskarich in action this Saturday when the Rivermen host the Surrey Eagles. The second game of a weekend home-and-home series gets underway at 7: 15 p.m. at the Langley Events Centre.