“I think Eli has stepped into a senior role,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “For Eriah Hayes, that role is scoring power-play goals and leading off the ice. For Tyler Elbrecht, it’s being a shut-down defenseman and leading off the ice. For Eli Zuck, it’s about being on the No. 1 penalty-killing unit and leading off the rink and in the locker room. It’s about supporting his teamamtes, doing the right thing and saying the right thing.”
Zuck has played in 108 college games. Of the current players, only Hayes and Elbrecht have played more for the Mavericks. Zuck has 12 goals and 30 assists for his career (two and seven this year). But since becoming a key penalty killer this year along with freshman Bryce Gervais, the Mavericks have been nothing short of stifling against opponents’ power plays.
“I really feel like we’ve been a real sparkplug for this team,” Zuck said. “I love killing penalties. I think it’s a real important part. The little things I appreciate like blocking shots and playing good defense. We have a lot of skill on this team; it’s ridiculous, especially up front.”
With Zuck centering the fourth line, the Mavericks have more depth down the middle of their lineup than in any of his first three seasons. Hastings said that gives him the peace of mind to have any line on the ice at anytime — home or away and against any other line in the league.
Zuck moved up to the third line for four games around Christmas when freshman Teddy Blueger played in in the World Junior Championships in Russia, but returned to his role last week.
“Whatever I can do for the team to help us win,” he said. “That’s what it really comes down to, is winning. It sure is refreshing having a lot more wins this year, and hopefully we can continue that.”