Evan Bell The Latest Livonia Native To Wear The Merrimack Jersey
NORTH ANDOVER — There are certain areas of the country where hockey is ingrained in the community. New England is certainly one of those areas, and the more the sport grows, the more it’s becoming bigger in areas outside of just New England and Minnesota.
Livonia, Michigan is a prime example. A suburb of Detroit, the town is producing more and more college hockey players. Merrimack sophomore forward Tyler Irvine is from Livonia and the Warriors will welcome a second Livonia native, Evan Bell, this upcoming season.
“The success of the Red Wings definitely has helped,” said Bell, 20, who played the last two seasons for the Fargo Force in the USHL. “I’m really good friends with Tyler Irvine and there are couple of other guys I know who are committed to schools around here. (Michael) Babcock was only about 20 minutes from where I grew up. It’s just a big hockey community. It’s a hockey town. You see kids in the streets in the summer constantly playing street hockey and roller hockey and then in the winter, we’re catching as many Red Wings games as we can.”
Former Merrimack forward Nick Pomponio was also from Livonia.
Bell grew up watching his dad and uncle play hockey. His uncle, Dennis Smith, played in nearly 500 AHL games and also saw time with the Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals.
“I used to watch my dad all the time growing up,” Bell said. “He played juniors and then I was a kid watching him in men’s league, and it made my want to play. I watched my uncle growing up and I looked up to both of them. It would be a dream to follow in his footsteps and play in the NHL. Hockey has always been in the family.”
Bell has been described by coaches as an elite-level skater. In 60 games with the Force last season, he scored three goals and added seven assists from the blue line. As an 18-year-old rookie in the USHL, Bell scored one goal and nine assists in 57 games. Prior to joining the Force, Bell skated in 59 games for Rio Grande (NAHL) in 2014-15, totaling 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists).
“I’d describe myself as a two-way defenseman,” Bell said. “I like to jump up into the rush and help out the forwards but I am strict in the D-zone, and I try to keep that as my role.
“Skating is definitely something I take pride in. I work hard in the summer so I can maintain it. I was able to develop that part of my game when I was younger and stuck with it.”
Bell has been on campus with Merrimack’s other incoming freshman since early-July, taking part in summer classes, getting in the weight room and adjusting to their new lives as college freshmen.
During the recruiting process, he said he talked to a few schools, but Merrimack always stood out as his top choice.
“There was something about the community here,” he said. “There was a tight-knit feel and the guys here talked so highly of the community. Then when I got here, just communicating with people, I knew right away that it was the right place for me, and my family thought so, too.
“Coming in early has been a big help for me. Being out of school for two years playing juniors, it can be heard to jump back in, but summer classes have helped. Also, we get to know the other guys and it just gets us used to how things will be earlier, which has helped a lot.”