His game has completely transformed.
In the early parts of his career, when the Warriors implemented their stretch play more often than they do now, Collins was typically the one on his line that never sniffed the defensive zone, hanging by the red line waiting for a home-run breakout pass from one of his defensemen.
Now, he’s starring on the penalty kill. He leads all forwards on the team with 19 blocked shots and continues to make stellar plays on the defensive end.
Kyle Bigos, a senior, has played with Collins his entire Merrimack career. But even before that, the 6-foot-5 defenseman was Collins’ teammate with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League. Together, the pair won the 2009 Royal Bank Cup Championship — the national title for Junior A hockey in Canada.
“One thing about Mike is he’s very coachable,” Bigos said. “I think that’s what makes him able to elevate his game at each level. I’ve seen it. Any info a coach tells him, he uses it and that’s why you see him in position to make a play on the backcheck or always be close enough to the puck to turn up on offense.”
He’s also pretty smart.
Similar to the play last Friday, in Saturday’s game at UNH, Collins was again near the end of a shift. Instead of forcing a pass to a streaking Ben Bahe, who was on the opposite wing, he was at the defensive blue line and actually iced the puck.
Why? Because he knew that Bahe would beat out the icing and create a possession in the offensive zone.
“Everyone would have tried to force that pass across the ice,” Dennehy said. “He had nothing left. I mean, he was gassed. Icing the puck like that, that’s thinking far ahead. That’s thinking, literally, two plays ahead.”