Seawolf hockey fans never expected what happened at the 2004 Nye Frontier Classic when the UAA Seawolves upset the third-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers to win the championship. And they certainly didn’t expect a walk-on freshman to be the team leader in points and the team’s scoring savior.
Merit Waldrop, a 5-foot 10-inch, 170-pound winger scored two goals and assisted on another to lead the Seawolves to a 3-3 win over Canisius College and advance the team to the championship.
And he put the crowd into hysteria as the first sniper in the shootout with a spectacular goal past Golden Griffin Goalie Bryan Worosz.
“He is a pleasant young man, who is very passionate about hockey,” said head coach John Hill. “He is quiet in the locker room, but he has great leadership qualities, and in the future he could step up as a team leader if he needs to.”
The 21-year old already has. He had three assists in UAA’s exhibition win over the Grant MacEwan Griffins. And without him, there’s no way UAA would have upset the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
In his first games in front of his hometown fans, Waldrop showed his speed and stickhandling skills. He also showed his power play effectiveness as he tallied one of his goals on the power play and worked the passing lanes with crisp passes between line-mates Chris Tarkir and Justin Johnson. As the team’s second scoring line, the trio has accounted for a third of the team’s points
“The chemistry with Tarkir and Johnson is there,” said Waldrop. “It’s nice to play with the speed of Tarkir and have Johnson’s big hits in the game.”
After playing junior hockey with the Texarkana Bandits of the North American Hockey League where he had 12 goals and 16 assists in 29 games, Waldrop said it was time to come home.
“Playing college hockey was always a goal of mine, and I knew I had a chance at getting decent ice-time playing for coach Hill,” said Waldrop.
Prior to playing for Texarkana, Waldrop had won numerous awards in his hockey career. He started skating when he was only two years old and started playing his first competitive hockey for the Alaska All Stars at the age of six.
He later went on to play for the Dimond Lynx in Anchorage. He finished his high school skating career as a state champ in 2001 and All-Region honors in his sophomore, junior and senior years. He was All-State as a junior and senior and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player his final year.
Waldrop was also named Most Offensive Player when he played junior hockey for the Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League. In 79 games, he tallied 19 points.
While Waldrop hasn’t picked a major, he said he would like to get involved after hockey with dentistry or sports medicine.
Waldrop thrives on hockey. He said his hockey idols growing up were his father and the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. Waldrop said his favorite NHL team is the Detroit Red Wings and he loves the hockey movies “Miracle” and “Young Bloods.”
“I love everything about hockey and it’s always been my talent growing up,” said Waldrop.
Waldrop, quiet in the locker room, puts himself in the spotlight with his proven hockey talent on the ice.
Waldrop is excited to be home playing for the Seawolves, but he still has future feats in mind to top off his hockey career. He would like to win a national championship and play as a professional in the National Hockey League. But first, he has an exciting season and career ahead of him with UAA.
“It’s all uphill from here,” Waldrop said, when asked how far he thinks the Seawolves can go in this year’s hockey season.
If he keeps playing like he did in the Classic, he can say the same thing for himself.