There’s no substitute for experience in the world of college hockey.
That’s something that Prince Albert’s Josh McDougall is taking to heart this summer as the 21-year-old prepares for his sophomore season on the blueline with the NCAA’s Mercyhurst Lakers.
“The first year was definitely a learning curve but I now have a really good idea of what to expect and plan for when it comes to balancing school and hockey, which should give me a leg up at the start of this season,” McDougall said.
“There was a little bit of an adjustment when it came to going back to school, but the transition went well and the older guys on the team did a great job of showing me the ropes when it came to getting ready to play every weekend.”
McDougall, who is majoring in biology at the Erie, Pa. based school, joined the Lakers after earning the SJHL’s top defenceman honours in the 2017-18 season when he posted 74 points in 55 games for the Nipawin Hawks.
“College hockey is quite a bit different from the SJ,” McDougall said. “There are a lot of bigger and stronger guys on each team and the conference that we are in (Atlantic Hockey) is very skilled.
“Some people might look at Atlantic Hockey and go in with the mindset that it’s an easy conference, but I think a lot of teams from other conferences have found out the hard way that everyone is tough to play against.”
With two goals and 11 assists in 38 games, McDougall was second among Lakers blueliners in scoring with 13 points, which was also the third most by a first-year player for the program.
“I thought that I did alright, but there were some things that I could have been better at,” McDougall said. “I learned quite a lot last year and I think that will allow me to make some huge improvements in my game this season.
“Speed is huge in college hockey as it’s a fast paced game, so I’ve been working a lot on my speed this summer. I’m also trying to get stronger so I can play the gritty style of hockey that you need to play when things count.”
His most memorable moment of the season came on Oct. 12, 2018, as he scored his first collegiate goal in a 7-6 shootout loss at home to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
“That’s one goal that I won’t forget, especially since I was able to score on a really good goalie (Cale Morris) that I’m sure people are going to be hearing a lot more about in the years to come,” said McDougall, who stands at 5’10” and weighs 170 pounds.
“It was great to get that goal in my second game at Mercyhurst and it gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”
After finishing in seventh place last season in Atlantic Hockey with a 13-18-5 record and being swept by the Army Black Knights in the first round, the Lakers will have a different looking lineup this season due to graduations or players leaving early to start their professional careers.
“We’re going to be a younger team, but I think that’s going to be a good thing,” McDougall said. “Everyone’s eager to improve on last season and we’re all hungry to have success.”
McDougall will be the leading returning scorer on the blueline as Joseph Duszak signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs after he led the Lakers offensively with 47 points during his junior campaign.
The Lakers will start their 2019-20 campaign on Saturday, Oct. 5, as they’ll go on the road to face the Arizona State Sun Devils.