Nick Merkley got a well deserved day off on Thursday.
And the 18-year-old Rockets forward could certainly use it.
On Wednesday Merkley completed a stretch of games that quite likely could have been the most demanding of his young career, including two games in Portland last weekend, two games with Team WHL Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday’s home game with the Rockets, a stretch of five emotionally-charged games in six days.
During the time he had six WHL points, was named the WHL Player of the Week and on Wednesday capped it off with a shootout goal in the Rockets win.
“The coach told me I had a day off (Thursday) so that will be nice to sit around and relax a bit,” Merkley said after Wednesday’s game when he was one of the more effective Rockets players, being named the game’s third star and scoring one of the Rockets shootout goals in a 2-1 win over Vancouver.
“It’s been a fun week and it’s going to be exciting moving forward.”
Rockets coach Brad Ralph said he was impressed with Merkley’s performance during a time when the young player had plenty of pressure to deal with.
“We played in Tri-City and then played two very emotional games in Portland and Nick was named WHL player of the week so that speaks to how well he played,” said Ralph. “Then to play the two Canada-Russia games where I thought he played well. Emotionally there is a lot involved. There is a lot of pressure. Then he came back for our afternoon game Wednesday and he was a difference maker for us. It’s a testament to the type of player he is.”
After Merkley helped the Rockets to the two wins in Portland on Friday and Saturday nights, he flew home on Sunday and joined the rest of the Team WHL members at Prospera Place for a media event prior to the start of the 2015 Canada-Russia Series.
He played Monday in Kelowna and Tuesday in Kamloops for Team WHL, before returning on a late night bus Tuesday and hitting the ice for an afternoon game Wednesday back in Kelowna.
Merkley said while there was plenty of travel, he had prepared during the summer for what would be a busy year, including his attempt to make Team Canada’s World Junior team.
“I felt pretty good,” said Merkley about Wednesday’s game. “These are the things you work for in the sumer. It’s nice to play like that after a long week. The Canada Russia series was fun. It was good to see all of those guys and it was a great experience overall.”
Merkley and the Rockets are back in action this weekend, playing in Spokane on Saturday night.