Between now and the start of the regular season, The Mack Report and The Eagle Tribune will bring you Q&A features with incoming Merrimack men’s hockey players ahead of the 2018-19 season.
When Merrimack freshman Christian Simeone was a youngster, he played games at Merrimack’s Lawler Arena when traveling up to the Merrimack Valley with the South Shore Kings. Now, Simeone will call Lawler home when the Warriors open the season next month.
Simeone is a local product from Milton, Mass., and the 21-year-old played at Thayer and B.C. High before traveling the last two seasons to play for the Springfield Jr. Blues (NAHL) and the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (BCHL). In 2015-16, he was a teammate of sophomore defenseman Dominic Dockery as part of the South Shore Kings USPHL team and he played with junior forward Patrick Kramer at B.C. High in 2014-15.
Last season, Simeone scored 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 58 games with the Bulldogs, adding three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in seven playoff games.
Q. You committed not long after Scott Borek was hired … what made Merrimack stand out as the place for you as you went through the recruiting process?
Simeone: “Exactly .. I committed in May. I grew up in Milton, which is only about 40 minutes away, so I grew up watching Hockey East games and always dreamed of playing in the league. I grew up around this rink, playing against the Islanders. I love the campus and how it’s a smaller feel and having the rink on campus is huge. You can’t beat the fans here, it’s basically sold out every night, and that was a big thing for me.
“I met with the new coaches around the end of May and it just worked out. I loved his plan for the future here.
Q. What is it about the South Shore Kings and their model that puts so many kids into college hockey? It seems like so many of those kids go on to play D-I somewhere.
Simeone: “My team had six or seven draft picks and two of them are in the NHL right now. I think five of them are in Hockey East. The Kings teams were loaded when I was growing up, especially the ’95 team up to the ’97 team. It’s really kind of crazy, but they were doing something right because so many of us went on to play at high levels.”
Q. What have the last few years been like for you? I know you went out west to play in the BCHL.
Simeone: “Yeah, I went out to the BCHL this past year. It was an awesome experience. It was good to get far away from home and it was a life-changing experience. The culture is way different out there. It’s a really good league. The coaches out there brought me in and we were a really young team, so it was good to take on a leadership role with some of the younger guys. It was awesome, I loved every part of it.”
Q. Where do you feel like your game developed out in the BCHL?
Simeone: “I definitely feel like my defensive game developed. You learn so much more of the defensive side of the game. We were a team that was on the lower end of the standings, so we were always playing against top offensive teams. It helped me a lot in the defensive zone, and I played a lot of PK last year, which I had never really done. That was a good thing, and I think it helped me learn the game in the defensive zone.
Q. Guys always say, as they come into college hockey, that the game is going to be faster and the guys are a lot stronger. Was there any thing you focused on this summer that you wanted to improve ahead of your senior year?
Simeone: “I think I need to get a little more explosive on my first few steps. We’re in the weight room four times per week, which has been great. For me, getting stronger and getting a little more explosive will help me. Obviously getting faster is the biggest thing. I think Hockey East is the best league in college hockey, so you need to keep up.
Q. How important was it to come in early in the summer? Most of the freshmen are here, I know, around July. It seems like everyone puts that time to good use.
Simeone: “It’s been awesome. It’s one thing for me to commit and say I’m coming here, but it’s totally another thing when you walk in and meet all the guys. The first night we got here we all met up, said hello, and I feel like we’re already coming together. All of the freshmen have lived together (all summer), so we’ve become really tight. I love it so far. It’s been awesome.”