Dawson Mercer of Bay Roberts named player of the game in Canada Russia series opener
Former coach says he is sure to be in contention for the World Juniors
A teenage hockey player from a small town on Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula made a big impression at an international hockey game Monday night.
Dawson Mercer, 18, scored a goal and was named player of the game in the CIBC Canada-Russia Series opener in Saint John.
"I had a great opportunity here today and I just want to put my best foot forward and show them what I can really do on the ice," he told reporters after the game.
Mercer plays for the Drummondville Voltigeurs, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team.
The Canada-Russia series is a showcase for young athletes in the Quebec, Ontario and Western hockey leagues.
Each league puts together a team of star players to compete against a Russian team for two games each.
It's a chance for talent scouts to see prospects for both Canada's World Junior team and the NHL.
"Being put in that situation, playing with good players around me, I'm really happy to have that chance and bring my game to the next level out there," Mercer said.
Bo Bennett, who coached Mercer for much of his hockey career in Bay Roberts, said he isn't surprised to see the young man's success.
Here's how the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/QMJHL?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#QMJHL</a> took their first lead of the night in the second!<br><br>🚨Dawson Mercer<br>🍎Jakob Pelletier<br>🍏Jordan Spence<br>⌚️9:43<br><br>QMJHL 2⃣, RUS 1⃣<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CANvsRUS?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CANvsRUS</a> <a href="https://t.co/oeOsV4Y568">pic.twitter.com/oeOsV4Y568</a>—@QMJHL
"We had him nicknamed 'The Matrix' back in the day," said Bennett, a reference to the movie that saw Keanu Reeves bend over backwards at the knees.
"He puts himself in all kinds of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes to shed defenders."
Bennett praised Mercer's talents off the ice, too.
"I had a kid on the ice, older boy, that needed help. [Mercer] spent a week with him, one-on-one and just stayed with that kid," Bennett said.
"Nobody in the stands could get over what they were seeing."
And the coach is already making plans to follow Mercer's success.
He jokes with his family that they should arrange to celebrate Christmas in the Czech Republic, so that they can watch Mercer play in the World Junior Hockey Tournament, although the team has not been selected yet.
"I think he has a really good shot," he said. "I think he played himself to a spot to try out."
Despite the Newfoundlander's impressive performance, the Russian team won Monday's game 4-3.
Mercer will back on the ice tonight at the Avenir Centre in Moncton, N.B., for the second game of the series.
With files from François Le Blanc