Such is the case for Merrick Madsen, the Flyers’ sixth round pick at 162nd overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, who committed to playing for Harvard University after appearing for the Minot Minotaurs of the North American Hockey League and two years at the Proctor Academy where he was awarded the Spencer V. Wright Award for Athletic Achievement and Sportsmanship as a senior.
Entering his Sophomore year for the Crimson, the 6-5, 190-pound netminder knew in collegiate hockey with significantly less games than the junior ranks, that when the opportunity came knocking he had to answer.
And he did just that.
Madsen earned his first ever NCAA start on opening night for Harvard and recorded a 25-save shutout to lead the Crimson to a 7-0 win over Dartmouth. He followed that up with a win the very next night that led to a perfect 5-0-0 record.
“It says a lot about his character the fact that he has had to earn his minutes,” said Brady Robinson, the Flyers goaltender development coach. “Some guys thrive on the competition for the crease and he has demonstrated that up to this point. I also think this weekend was a good test with back to back starts after giving up four the first night. He responded with another shutout to stay undefeated on the season.”
After allowing four goals on 29 shots in a 4-4 tie to Union College this past weekend, he rebounded to stop all 32 shots he faced in a 0-0 tie to Rensselaer on Saturday.
Madsen’s numbers slipped, if you can call it that, to a 0.98 goals-against average and .966 save percentage, both of which lead all goaltenders in the NCAA. Not to bad for his first seven starts of his collegiate career, especially considering four of those have been shutouts.
“I think confidence plays a huge factor in his early success,” added Robinson. “He's feeling really good with where his game is at, especially his mindset. It takes a lot of focus to be able to earn a shutout at the college level, the fact he now has four in seven games shows that he's in a good spot mentally.”
He has now started seven of the team’s 10 games to begin the season, and his statistics haven’t gone unnoticed to the fans, and neither has his play with Flyers player development coaches.
“There's obviously still things I've got to work on,” added Madsen to the Harvard Crimson. “I haven't been playing perfect games by any means, and there's things throughout the weeks and the rest of the year that I'm going to be continuing to work on. But obviously getting starts is what I'm looking for.”
Madsen was named the MVP of The Shillelagh Tournament, hosted annually during the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey season at the University of Notre Dame, where he stopped 60 of 61 shots he faced to lead Harvard to the title.
“I thought Merrick was excellent,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato to the Harvard Crimson. “I thought he was in control all weekend. He was calm in the net, and made plays look simple. I think you can see his confidence growing.”
Heading into the holiday break, Madsen and Harvard will resume play on New Year’s Day when they travel to Minnesota for another tournament, the Mariucci Classic.
“The big thing for him to continue to develop is to keep things simple and focus on building his foundation,” added Robinson. “Attention to detail and working in a consistent manor day in and day out the right way will play a huge factor in the long term.”
For more on Flyers prospects playing in the NCAA, junior and European hockey leagues see below…