First-year dominates the Hockey East

He earned a spot on the men’s hockey team’s first line alongside seniors, led the team with 19 goals and was a staple in the Catamount’s playoff run.

The best part is that he, Mario Puskarich, is only a first-year.

Just one season into his collegiate career, Puskarich quickly became a large part of the team’s game each night.

“Mario has an NHL caliber shot. It’s on and off his stick right away,” first-year forward Brendan Bradley said.

“Anytime you have a freshman such as Mario playing like one of the best players in the country, it’s a big boost to the team,” Bradley said.

He has even won the prestigious 2014 Hockey East Rookie of the Year award, becoming the first Catamount to ever win the honor since joining the league in 2005, according to UVM athletics.

Puskarich talked about hisjourney to becoming a large part of the team early in his career.

“You want to step in and have an important role,” he said. “I kind of got off to a slow start so I didn’t know how the year would go, but I’m happy with the way it ended.”

Before coming to UVM, Puskarich played for Canada’s Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League for two seasons.

Despite his success in the Canadian league, he said he had to “adapt his game” to play in UVM’s Hockey East.

“It’s the best conference in all of Division I hockey,” he said. “You can’t just rely on your skill and I think you see that every night with every single team being able to win.”

Puskarich was continually used in clutch situations.

This includes his overtime goal against UMass Lowell March 15, which kept the Catamount’s season alive.

When asked if he hopes to follow in his teammate’s footsteps and earn an NHL contract, Puskarich said, “Definitely, once my four years are over here that’s something that I would like. That’s every hockey player’s dream.”

Despite being eliminated from their third NCAA tournament appearance in six years March 28, Puskarich said he and his returning teammates look to continue their success next season.