Keller (left, photo: John Quackenbos/BC Athletics) and Mercer (right, photo: Clarkson Athletics)
Megan Keller is a Boston College defenseman from Michigan in her sophomore season. Cayley Mercer is a junior forward for Clarkson University by way of Canada.
They’ve taken their own routes and play different roles for two of the best teams in women’s college hockey this season, yet the players have two things in common.
First, both rank among the nation’s best scorers. Though Keller is a defenseman, she is one with a talent for jumping up in the B.C. attack. She is 14th in NCAA Division I in scoring with 40 points, including 12 goals for the top-ranked and undefeated Eagles. Mercer is just ahead of her, tied for 11th in points with 42, including 21 goals for fifth-ranked Clarkson.
Second, each owes her passion for hockey in part to an older sibling who inspired them.
In Keller’s case, it was brother Ryan. He’s three years older and now a senior playing for Michigan State University.
“Being the little sister, I had to do everything he did,” Keller said.
Her parents didn’t have hockey backgrounds, but they supported her once she caught the hockey bug from big brother.
“He started playing, so I had to tag along,” she said. “He’d let me. And my parents played a huge role, too, taking me to the rink every day.”
For Mercer it was older sister Carly. The girls grew up in a hockey-loving family in Ontario, but it was through watching Carly that Cayley decided she just had to play the game, too, and play it well.
“Watching my sister play, just seeing her love for the game, really sparked something in me, and I always wanted to be like her,” Mercer recalled. “She’s been such a great role model for me.”
Such an example, in fact, that she followed Carly to Clarkson, where they were in the hockey program two seasons together and a part of the NCAA championship team of 2013-14.
That season they played on the same line, an experience Cayley will never forget. They pushed one another constantly to improve and then were able to experience an NCAA title.
“It was exciting for us,” she said.
Keller Brings the Offense to B.C.’s Defense
Since Keller came to Boston College last season, the Eagles have been on a roll. They were 34-3-2 in 2014-15 and reached the Frozen Four. This season, they’ve been perfect through 32 games.
“It’s been awesome,” Keller said. “I can’t even describe it. I get to play with the best players in the country every day.”
As a freshman, Keller had 24 points in 37 games. It’s possible she could double that total as a sophomore. Her points-per-game average has shot up from 0.65 to 1.25.
She credits the improvement to being pushed by the good players around her and the coaching staff, and to improving her strength in the weight room.
“Getting faster and having a harder shot … that’s one thing about coming to college that’s helped,” she said.
Though she’s a defenseman, she’s always had an offensive bent. She ranks No. 1 in the nation in points by defensemen and says her coaches have encouraged her to join the attack and take shots.
It’s easier to do, she says, with an elite goalie and a strong team behind her.
“I’ve made my share of mistakes throughout these games and I’m still learning,” she said. “I feel comfortable knowing I have all my teammates behind me.”
Mercer on Track to Boost Scoring Numbers Again
Clarkson got off to a fast start, stumbled a bit with three losses in November-December and then has regained its momentum in the new year.
The Golden Knights (24-3-5) sit just behind Quinnipiac University in the ECAC race, and Mercer believes her team is coming together. A large group of freshmen has gotten into the flow and the team is now playing its best hockey, she said.
“We’re playing with a lot of chemistry and a lot of energy right now,” said Mercer, who had a late, game-tying goal Saturday night in a 2-2 tie with Quinnipiac. “We’re really rolling, so it’s exciting to see where the rest of the season is going to take us.”
Mercer certainly knows what that’s like after experiencing the NCAA title in 2013-14. A knee injury had sidelined her the previous season, so as a redshirt freshman she played in 41 games and had 22 points for the title team. Last season, she had 24 goals and 20 assists in 38 games. She’ll improve on those totals again.
This season, she believes she must make an impact with her performance and attitude.
“I feel like I’m expected to bring a lot of energy day in and day out,” she said. “Being an older player, I want to come out every night with a lot of speed and a lot of tenacity and get my teammates up on the bench and into the game. On top of that, as an older player, I’m looked at to produce offensively and so far, with my linemates, I’ve been lucky to be able to do that.”
She considers herself a “pass-first” forward, but she’s had some big scoring games this year. She had back-to-back three-goal games vs. the University of New Hampshire in late October and has added two-goal games vs. Cornell University, Yale University and Union College.
“I’ve gained some confidence in my own game, and just being able to shoot the puck more and attack the net more, it’s definitely paid off as far as goals go,” she said. “But I think the most special part about the goals is every single one stems from great teamwork and passing plays, a collaboration of me and my teammates.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.