Carmen Merlo grew up in Missouri and left to attend Shattuck St. Mary’s. The ’01 recently committed to Union, where she will matriculate in the fall of 2019. Neutral Zone chatted with Merlo about her youth hockey experience, her recruitment process and more.
Neutral Zone: How and when did you start playing hockey?
Carmen Merlo: My dad coached the boy’s team for our local hockey organization. Since I was the second of four children, I had to tag along a lot because my mom was caring for my younger siblings. One day after watching the boys play I told my dad I could do that better than they can. So we decided to give it a shot when I was four.
NZ: What’s your earliest memory from playing hockey?
CM: On my 12U AAA Lady Blues team, I was 10 years old. We were playing the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in the championship for Tier 1 at the time. I scored the game-winning goal in five overtimes in the championship. I remember how good it felt to be mobbed at center ice by my teammates.
NZ: What was your youth hockey experience like?
CM: Youth hockey was a really fun time for me. I made friends whom I still talk to today. I also went places that I would never have been able to go to if it weren’t for hockey. I spent so much time with so many of my teammates and parents that it’s like they had become family.
NZ: Take us through the NCAA recruitment process. What other schools were you talking to and where did you visit?
CM: I talked to many schools including Holy Cross, Clarkson, Yale, and a few others. After I visited Union I knew that it would be a perfect fit.
NZ: What made you decide to commit to Union? What went into that decision for you and your family to know it was the right place?
CM: Union has a great young program with a new coach whom I felt I would be able to grow and expand my game with. The rink was fantastic and the facilities were amazing. The academic programs will provide a great challenge and help me achieve my off-ice goals.
NZ: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while playing hockey?
CM: The strangest thing was when I was about nine years old but was playing on the 12u Lady Blues team. My older brother was four years older than me and my team was in a league where a lot of his friends played. It was the strangest feeling I ever had and every time I was challenging one of his friends for a puck, we would both break out into laughter. I remember during warm-ups hearing all of the boys say, “Oh my. That’s Cody’s little sister!”
NZ: What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you in hockey?
CM: Every second you are on the ice, you need to be giving a 100 percent effort because the one second that you don’t might be the one second that your opportunity arrives.
NZ: What are your best on-ice skills?
CM: By far my best on-ice skills are my speed and my ability to separate myself from other skaters.
NZ: What aspect of your game are you working on improving the most?
CM: I realize playing hockey at a DI level will be very physically demanding. I will be spending the next year and a half getting myself into the best physical condition I can and improving my strength.
NZ: Is there a professional player you model your game after?
CM: I like David Perron because I think he is fast. He has fast hands and is quick on his feet. That’s where I want to be.
NZ: Who’s been the biggest influence in your hockey career?
CM: Even though I didn’t play for them very long, I received the biggest influence when I got to play with Mark Hallemann and Dave Stanley. They were coaches of my Blues AAA team for one year, but their influence will be revered forever. They were tough but fair and you always knew they were trying to make you the best hockey player you could be.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?
CM: My toughest challenge was being accepted by the boys while playing with them at a young age. I did not only have to be as good as them, I had to be better. Unfortunately, the general attitude was that I didn’t belong out there and my job was to show them that not only did I belong, but that I was going to be a big asset to their team.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in life?
CM: My toughest challenge was adapting to life away from my family at boarding school. I love my family and am very close to my siblings so it is tough to be away from them.
Photo Credit: Hickling Images