Photo by Grace Wiley
Steven Merl (University of Michigan) announced Monday morning that he will be attending the University of Michigan to play college hockey after his time in the United States Hockey League. Merl becomes the second Thunder player to announce his commitment this season and joins the list of 33 other players and alumni to acquire a connection with a Division I institution. The Bloomfield, MI native released the information saying,
“Extremely honored to announce my commitment to The University of Michigan! Thanks to everyone who made it possible! Go Blue!” - @Stevieweve via Twitter.com.
“I’ve been talking to Michigan since my senior year of high school. It’s always been a dream school of mine and at the top of my list of where I want to be,” said the Thunder forward.
“Coach Williams and the rest of the (Thunder) staff have been amazing for me to work with over the last year. I can’t thank everyone else enough for helping me get here. It means the world to me and I’m really excited.”
Merl, 19, was acquired by the Thunder on Feb. 25, 2015 as part of a trade with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The 6-foot-3 forward has played in 23 games for Bloomington since 2014 scoring three goals and three assists in his tenure. Overall in the USHL, Merl has played in 56 games and totaled 13 points (6G, 7A).
When asked about what made the Wolverines the perfect fit, Merl said, “Living in Michigan for the last three or four years, you see that everywhere you go, it is a big family. The atmosphere at Yost arena and the history there is unbelievable. I’m really excited to work with the coaching staff and the other recruits coming in as well.”
Playing his youth hockey with Belle Tire in the Tier I Elite Hockey League, Merl and Thunder captain Jake Slaker (St. Lawrence University) were teammates during the 2013-14 season. Prior to playing with Belle Tire, Merl suited up with the Cleveland Barons organization from 2009-12.
Steven joins current teammate, goaltender Hayden Lavigne (University of Michigan), in his commitment to the Wolverines.
The University of Michigan currently houses 20 USHL alumni rostered with their program including Youngstown Phantoms alum and reigning USHL Player of the Year Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets) Also with the Wolverines are Cooper Marody (Philadelphia Flyers) and Joseph Cecconi (Dallas Stars) who are former teammates of Merl’s from Muskegon.
Merl and the Thunder hit the road on Friday to take on Waterloo before heading to Green Bay Saturday. The team is on a six-game point streak, going 3-0-3 over the stretch. Bloomington currently stands tied for second in the Eastern Conference with a 6-5-3 record to start the season.
USHL PLAYERS COMMITTED TO UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN:
Quinn Hughes (Team USA), Dylan St. Cyr (Team USA), James Sanchez (Team USA), Connor Murphy (Green Bay Gamblers), Nick Pastujov (Team USA), Christian Meike (Sioux City Musketeers), Will Lockwood (Team USA), Griffin Luce (Team USA), Luke Martin (Team USA), Michael Pastujov (Team USA), Josh Norris (Team USA), and Hayden Lavigne (Bloomington Thunder).
USHL ALUMNI ON 2015-16 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN ROSTER:
Evan Allen (Team USA), Nick Boka (Team USA), Tony Calderone (Sioux Falls Stampede), Joe Cecconi (Muskegon Lumberjacks), J.T. Compher (Team USA), Kyle Connor (Youngstown Phantoms), Michael Downing (Dubuque Fighting Saints), Alex Kile (Green Bay Gamblers), Cooper Marody (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Cutler Martin (Tri-City Storm), Tyler Motte (Team USA), Zachary Nagelvoort (Green Bay Gamblers), Cristoval Nieves (Indiana Ice), Sam Piazza (Chicago Steel), Steven Racine (Chicago Steel), Justin Selman (Sioux Falls Stampede), Max Shuart (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Alex Talcott (Indiana Ice), Brendan Warren (Team USA), and Zachary Werenski (Team USA).
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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