Mario Puskarich is considered one of the best players to ever put on a Langley Rivermen jersey. From 2011-2013, he recorded 148 points (72 goals, 76 assists) in 115 career games with the Riv. In the 2012-13 season, he became the first player in franchise history to lead the league in goals (41) and points (89). Now in in his third season at the University of Vermont, Puskarich is considered one of the top potential college NHL free-agents. Below is an exchange Puskarich had with langleyrivermen.com:
LR: You are in your third season at the University of Vermont, how has your overall experience been there?
MP: My experience at UVM has been unbelievable. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to be here and excited I have still have 2 years left.
LR: Have you fully adapted to college life yet? Cooking, living with roommates etc.?
MP: I think moving away from home at 16 helped me with the “adapting to college life”. We only had to live on campus for our freshman year so this is my second year living off campus in an apartment. Living with roommates is similar to juniors, most of the time you’re living with another player or two so that really wasn’t an adjustment.
LR: What is your specialty that you cook?
MP: My specialty I cook probably isn’t really special, but my go to meal is steak with pasta and baked potato, it’s simple and doesn’t take too long.
LR: How was juggling your studies with hockey when you began there?
MP: Juggling studies with hockey was pretty challenging for me at the beginning. After not being in school for four years it was a bit of a shock. Once I got organized and comfortable it was a lot easier to manage everything.
LR: In a pre-season article you were mentioned as a potential top college NHL free agent. What was your reaction to that?
MP: It was humbling, but at the same time my focus is staying 100% and be consistent all year.
LR: You had a spectacular freshman season at Vermont with 36 points in 37 games, and won Hockey East Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-Rookie Team. Did you surprise yourself even after putting up those kind of numbers?
MP: My freshman season was a great experience, I was fortunate to play on a line with a great player Chris McCarthy who really helped me on and off the ice. Coming in to my freshman year I was confident in my game to contribute offensively but did not expect to have that many points.
LR: What were some of the toughest adjustments coming from Junior “A” to college hockey?
MP: The size and strength of the players in college was definitely a tough adjustment coming from the BCHL. You aren’t playing against 18-19-20 year olds anymore. Most of these players are 22-23 and some 24-25 year olds that are strong and hard to play against every night.
LR: What kind of role do you hope to have in your third season?
MP: In my third season it has been the same role since freshman year. Contribute offensively while also playing a 200ft game. Last season and this season I have more of a leadership role, which is great. Looking back to my freshman year we had great leaders who really helped us with anything we needed. So to be able to do the same now in my third year is something I think is very important.
LR: Do you keep in contact with any former Rivermen teammates that are at the NCAA level?
MP: I still keep in contact with Robby (James Robinson), Cams (Evan Campbell), and Thomas Nitsche when we can. There isn’t too much free time with school and hockey, but when we get a chance we catch up and we all follow each others seasons to see how each of us are doing. I also chat with Bobby Henderson when we can.
LR: Do you keep tabs on how the Rivermen are doing?
MP: My freshman year Robby was still on the Rivermen, so I would catch every game online that I could, now it’s more of checking the website and watching highlights. It is great to see how well they have been doing the past few years and couldn’t be happier for Coach Henderson.
LR: You suffered an injury last season and played in just 29 games, have you fully recovered from it?
MP: Being injured last season was really tough as it was really the only time in my career I had a serious injury. After a long five months of recovery and treatment I was able to fully recover and feel like I am in the best shape I have been in the last two years.