Mauermann makes his mark at Providence
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The new coaching staff at Providence College didn't call Ross Mauermann in the spring of 2011 when they were scouring the prep school and junior ranks for players that could come in immediately and beef up a roster that was short on both numbers and talent.
Instead, he called them.
At the time, not one of the other 58 Division I programs in the United States had a place for Mauermann, who had just finished his second season in the North American Hockey League and was too old for a third year.
“I knew I could play at the Division I level,” Mauermann said. But unless he could drum up some late D-I interest—it was already April—he probably was headed to a D-III school in his native Wisconsin.
So Mauermann picked up the phone and dialed assistant coach Ben Barr, who had just moved to PC from Union College along with new head coach Nate Leaman.
“We had met when I was still at Union,” said Barr. “I had talked to him, we recruited him a bit, but we didn't offer him a spot.”
The second time around, with PC badly in need of bodies, Mauermann was offered a slot as a recruited walk-on. On a campus visit, he “fell in love with the place,” he says.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Literally from day one, Mauermann, 22, has been a terrific player, leading a rebuilding team in scoring as a freshman and a sophomore. Last season, the U.S. Hockey Report called him “possibly the top recruited walk-on in the country.”
The 5-foot-9 center is held in such high regard by his coaches that when the Friars opened the 2013-14 season on Friday night at the sparkling new Schneider Arena, Mauermann wore an alternate captain's 'A' on his jersey, even though he's only a junior.
“It was an easy decision. Ross has all the traits that you want for your team,” said Leaman. “He's a great competitor. His work ethic is second to none. He's not a loud person, but when I found out he was talking to some of the freshmen and helping them out … leading the guys in his own way, it was easy. You change the culture of a program with kids like Ross.”
“He's a complete person. He's a good student. He's a good person off the ice. On the ice, he's a complete player. He can play offense, he can play defense, he's strong on the puck. He can log a lot of minutes. There's no weakness in his game. To me, Ross is a prototypical great player at our level. I feel comfortable playing him in any situation and I know he's going to succeed.”
Says Barr: “If you look at what he means to our program and what he did for our program from the day he got here, it's hard to find a guy that means more to his team as a recruited walk-on.”
The fact that Mauermann nearly fell through the cracks underscores the hit-or-miss nature of recruiting.
After a great high school career for the Janesville Bluebirds—he was a finalist for Wisconsin's “Mr. Hockey” award in 2008-09 while playing for his father, John—Mauermann decided to play junior for his hometown Janesville Jets of the Tier II NAHL. He was second on the team in scoring in his first year, and was the leader in the second.
While with the Jets, he tried out for and was cut by a couple of teams in the Tier I United States Hockey League. But he wasn't discouraged.
“Maybe going somewhere else I might have had more exposure, but it was fun to be able to stay home and play in my hometown. Looking back, maybe it worked out better that I didn't make those teams because I had an opportunity to play a lot of minutes in Janesville. Things happen the way they do for a reason,” said Mauermann.
“He's not a flashy player. In those tryouts, sometimes it's easy to overlook kids like that,” said Barr.
“He played on a team that wasn't great in the NA, which is a very hard league to recruit because it's spread out all over North America. If you just watched the stats on the Internet, you wouldn't appreciate what he did. I knew his coach at the time, Dane Litke. He kept calling me and calling me. He was a huge advocate for Ross. He kept telling me, this kid is really good.”
Seeing was believing once practices started at PC in the fall of 2011.
“First day here, he was arguably the best player on the ice,” said Barr. “So it wasn't just a fluke, all of a sudden. He was that good from day one. And it was because he worked so hard and cared about it so much, and was appreciative of the opportunity. The lucky part is that he's as good a kid as he is. That's what's lucky about it.”
Asked to describe his game, Mauermann says, “I'm a hard worker. I try to be a two-way player, offense and defense. Try to use my speed to my advantage, and try to make plays.”
Mauermann, who has been playing this week on a line with Stefan Demopoulos and Shane Luke, scored 24 points in 38 games for the low-scoring Friars as a freshman and 25 in 38 games as a sophomore. The goal this season, Leaman said, is to “take him to that next level and make him an elite player in the league offensively.”
Considering all that he means to his team, it's no surprise that Mauermann has been a scholarship player since last season.
“He's earned it,” said Leaman.