Male athlete of the year: Morris leaves legacy of dedication

Male athlete of the year: Morris leaves legacy of dedication

By Matt Nielsen

Despite playing in only 20 of Northeastern’s 36 games last season, senior forward Mike Morris managed to rank third on the squad in points, with 18 (seven goals, 11 assists).

After redshirting the 2005-06 season, Morris showed injuries couldn’t slow his game, helping the men’s hockey team get back to the postseason after it missed the 2006 playoffs in his absence.

Morris finished his career at Northeastern with 43 goals and 65 assists in 114 games. Although he missed 28 games in his career due to injury, he still managed to score 108 career points, 35th all-time for the Huskies. As his career progressed, he became even more important to the Huskies’ offense, anchoring young front lines and quarterbacking the power play unit.

As a highly sought prospect out of St. Sebastian’s prep in Needham, Morris was able to shop around for the right college hockey program. Northeastern fit for a variety of reasons, he said.

“I really wanted to play in the Beanpot and I wanted to play at a Hockey East school,” said the Braintree native. “I also wanted to stay in Boston. Jamie Rice was an assistant coach at Northeastern at the time, and he was a family friend and I’d known him since I was 15, so he was definitely a big reason I came to NU.”

Before Morris came to Northeastern he was drafted in the first round of the 2002 NHL draft, going 27th overall to the San Jose Sharks, but deferred playing in the pros to attend college.

Morris proved his high draft pick was justified, making an immediate impact on the Huskies his freshman year. In 26 games, Morris scored nine goals and added 12 assists to finish third on the team in points.

“When you have a lot of early success, it motivates you to work hard and keep getting better,” Morris said. “There weren’t really any cons to my early success. I was able to avoid getting complacent, and I just kept trying to improve every year.”

And Morris did improve.

In 2003-04, he finished second on the team with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists), playing in all the Huskies’ 34 contests. He followed with a brilliant performance as a junior the following season. That year Morris led the Huskies with 19 goals, and was second in points (39).

But Morris was involved in a car accident the following off-season, forcing him to redshirt the next year due to post-concussion problems.

“It was tough. I wasn’t in school-I moved home for the first semester of that year, and there was just a lot of downtime,” Morris said. “There was no real rehab I could do, so I just stayed home a lot. I think the most exercise I got was when I would walk my dog around the block. It was good to get back the next year and be part of the team again.”

Morris came back his senior season to a young team with a new coach, and was expected to be the steadying influence on what seemed like an imbalance of freshmen and seniors. He was named team captain for the 2006-07 season, and said he had no trouble adjusting to his new role.

“I was lucky,” Morris said. “I was part of a big senior class, and it wasn’t all on my shoulders. When it came to leading this team, it was more of a group effort.”

Morris fulfilled his role admirably, anchoring a top line that featured two rookies. The ultimate proof of his effectiveness was what happened in his absence.

During a six-game stretch in which Morris was sidelined with yet another injury, freshman line-mate Chad Costello, the team’s leading scorer ,was held without any points. The night Morris came back, Costello scored twice and added a pair of assists in a 6-2 rout of UMass-Lowell. The fact that the team’s two leading scorers were freshmen and Morris’s line-mates only made his senior season more incredible.

Morris recently signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks and said he is looking forward to starting training.

“Right now I’m just focusing on getting healthy again,” Morris said. “But I can’t wait to start skating again and getting ready for training camp.”

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