NORTH ANDOVER — Standing 5-11 and weighing 185 pounds, it isn't likely that Merrimack College defenseman Karl Stollery will have opponents shaking in their skates as they stare at him from the opposite blue line during the national anthem.
Zdeno Chara he is not.
But not long after the puck is dropped, Stollery makes his presence felt.
Whether it is with his stick — he is second in Hockey East in defenseman scoring and 10th in the nation — or with his bulldozing hits that often resemble the carnage of the Bruins' 6-foot-9 defender, Stollery has begun to stand apart as one of the best all-around defensemen in Division 1 hockey.
Last weekend against RIT, the junior scored the first hat trick of his collegiate career and now has 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in 17 games for the 9-4-4 Warriors.
But the modest Stollery is quick to deflect any praise coming his way.
"I had a nice weekend but it's more important that we had success as a team," he said.
He's just the player head coach Mark Dennehy was looking for when he began recruiting him in 2005.
"He's definitely become what we thought he would become," said Dennehy. "When (former associate head coach Darren Yopyk) and I first saw him, we didn't know much about him and his competitive spirit. He's a man of few words but he's very passionate, disciplined and hard working. He's such a good skater that he can beat guys with his feet but now he's added the ability to beat guys with the puck by passing it by them and joining the rush."
"I first saw him two years before he came in ... September of 2005," said Yopyk, who is now the head coach and GM of the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League. "We targeted him right away. He was a good fit for us and I think Merrimack was a good fit for him, too. He's a small-town kid and the small-school atmosphere worked very well for him."
While much of the NHL's attention has been focused on blue-chip sophomore forward Stephane Da Costa, Stollery has started to gain steam as well.
He skated with the Atlanta Thrashers' prospect camp over the summer and impressed their brass.
"Stollery was outstanding on defense for us (in the camp)," said Thrashers' general manager Rick Dudley.
Despite his sometimes quiet nature, Stollery packs a mighty punch.
Using what Dennehy describes as his low center of gravity, Stollery has sent many of Hockey East's larger wingers crashing to ice.
"He has a great base and is so powerful that he can take runs at bigger guys," Dennehy said.
"I think back to our BU game (at Lawler Arena) where he absolutely ran over (6-3, 200-pound Max) Nicastro, who is a big, strong, tough player. Stolls has a mean streak."
Oh captain, my captain
Among his peers, you'd be hard pressed to find a more respected teammate.
Stollery serves as the assistant captain alongside senior captains Chris Barton and Adam Ross. A captain's "C" in unquestionably in his future for next season.
"With that letter comes more responsibility," said Stollery. "The upperclassmen need to step up and show the younger guys how things need to work."
On the ice, there likely isn't a defenseman in Hockey East who logs more minutes. Time on the ice isn't a stat the NCAA keeps, but Stollery has played virtually every big minute for the Warriors the past two seasons.
Dennehy describes him as a silent leader, but one who still gets his point across.
"He exchanges books at Christmas with his dad," Dennehy said. "Instead of the usual hockey book, his dad got him a book by Dale Carnegie on public speaking this year. He tends to be a quiet guy but he has the respect of his teammates in that locker room, that's for sure. He's a heck of a leader."
Maine at Merrimack
When: Tomorrow, 4 p.m.
Radio: WLLH 1400 AM
Tickets: visit merrimackathletics.com or call 978-837-5324