NORTH ANDOVER — Last Friday against No. 4 New Hampshire, Merrimack College junior Mike Collins was at the end of a long shift.
As UNH broke the puck up ice, he had the opportunity to skate to the bench for a change. Instead, he somewhere found the energy to dart back down ice and broke up what was the beginnings of a breakaway for the Wildcats, getting his stick on a pass, causing the puck to bounce harmlessly into the corner.
Collins had three points (2 goals and an assist) in that 3-2 win. But perhaps his most important play was that game-saving backcheck in the second period.
That play has been the epitome of Collins’ game this season. The former Catholic Memorial star leads Hockey East in scoring with 25 points in 16 games (8-17—25), one more point than BC sophomore superstar Johnny Gaudreau (8-16—24), who is likely to be a Hobey Baker finalist, despite the fact that Gaudreau has played in two more conference games.
“Some of the better players in our league are playing with more established players,” Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy said. “Gaudreau is a great, great player. But, he’s playing with Steve Whitney (44-66—110) and Pat Mullane (37-87—124), who both have over 100 points in their career. Kevin Goumas up at UNH is playing with senior John Henrion (28-28—56 for his career).
“Mike’s playing with a freshman (Brian Christie) and (sophomore) Quinn Gould, who has gotten off to a good start but has been injured in his two years here. Teams are honing in on him, he’s not playing with established players, and he’s still getting it done.”
The career point total for Collins’ linemates is 21. For Gaudreau, it’s 234.
Collins also leads all Hockey East juniors in career scoring. Even so, it hasn’t been about just the puck bouncing in the back of the net.