Merrimack’s Schaller leading Providence
Tim Schaller has always been a valuable member of whatever hockey team he’s been on because of his ability to play defense.
In junior hockey, Schaller spent time as both a defensemen and forward, and was especially useful at killing penalties.
But Schaller, a junior from Merrimack now at Providence College, knew that to make himself attractive to professional teams he needed to become a better scorer.
“I told myself I needed to have a breakout year,’’ Schaller said. “The junior year is so important in terms of getting scouted.’’
Although he’s a free agent, Schaller attended a Chicago Black Hawks training camp over the summer and saw some of the things he needed to do to develop his shot.
It’s worked. Through 13 games this winter Schaller leads the Friars with eight goals, three more than the center scored in 34 games last winter, when he was second on the team in assists with 14.
The Providence coaching staff has rewarded the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder by putting him on the power play. But he’s still killing penalties too. In fact, two of his eight goals have come shorthanded, while four others have come on the power play.
“I think the biggest improvement in my game is my puck control,’’ Schaller said. “My hands have gotten a lot better.’’
Schaller played one year of high school hockey at Merrimack as a freshman when he teamed with his older brother Dave. He spent the next three seasons with the New England Huskies in the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
“My parents saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to play junior hockey,’’ Schaller said. “There’s no way I’d be playing at this level now if I hadn’t played in juniors.’’
Schaller was the team captain his third year with the Huskies, scoring 16 goals in 47 games, and both Providence and UMass-Lowell offered scholarships. But Lowell wanted him to play defense.
“I’ve always been defensive minded,’’ Schaller said, “but I always believed I could be a scorer. This year I have more confidence in my shot and I’m shooting more.’’
And in terms of keeping his chances alive of playing at the next level, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Zocco leads Rams
Sophomore linebacker David Zocco of Nashua finished the season as the leading tackler on the University of Rhode Island football team.
Zocco had 99 tackles, 20 more than the second closest teammate. His 73 solo tackles also led the team, as did his two pass interceptions. He tied for third on the team in sacks with four.
Zajac breaks fast
Junior point guard Jamie Zajac of Merrimack is off to a strong start for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men’s basketball team.
The former Bishop Guertin standout is averaging 13 points per game in the team’s first three games, including 7 for 10 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
He’s also the team leader in assists with 10.
Salis at Nichols
Senior guard Mike Salis, a Nashua North graduate, is averaging 6.7 points per game so far for Nichols College.
Salis is second on the team in rebounding with 15 in three games and leads the team in assists with 16 and steals with eight.
Mitchell gets minutes
Freshman point guard Mike Mitchell of Milford has appeared in all three games so far for the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) State men’s basketball team.
Mitchell is averaging 10 minutes and 3.0 points per game, hitting three of his first four field goals attempts.
Morgan in lineup
Sophomore Kelly Morgan of Brookline is a starting guard for the Worcester Polytechnic University women’s basketball team.
In five games so far she’s averaging 5.5 points per game and is third on the team in assists with 10.
After sitting out all but two games last winter because of a serious knee injury, senior Shannon Hassan is back on the court this winter for the Brandeis women’s basketball team.
In six games so far Hassan is averaging close to 20 minutes a game, 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Merrimack’s Rebecca Giacapuzzi recently finished her soccer season at the Finger Lakes Community College located in Canandaigua, N.Y. The team placed fifth in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament. The team was also the Region 3 Division III champ and finished with 21 wins, one loss and one tie.
Giacapuzzi, a freshman starter, was selected as the Female Athlete of the Week in the league for the week of Sept. 6. She was also selected for the NJCAA Mid-State Athletic Conference first team, the NJCAA All-Region first team and the NJCAA Region 3 Division III All-Tournament Team.