Austin’s Mella is driven to succeed on the ice

Published 6:45 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Ever since he began skating as a kindergartner, Austin Bruins forward Alex Mella has been hooked on hockey and he’s constantly driving to be the best player he can be.

When Mella was 14 years old and entering his freshman year of high school, he left his home in Stamford, Connecticut and moved 1,227 miles away to Faribault, Minnesota where he went on to play hockey for Shattuck-Saint Mary’s for four years.

It was tough for Mella to move away from his family, but it was something he knew he had to do if he wanted to become the best hockey player he could be.

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“I wanted to go to a prep school and Shattuck is the pinnacle of hockey prep schools,” Mella said. “You have to learn how to grow up fast there. You don’t have your mom and dad there to baby sit you all of the time and you have to become more independent. You have to learn how to get your schoolwork done, what to eat and when to go to bed. You definitely learn how to grow up fast.”

Mella also did a bit more maturing over the past year. He started off the season in training camp with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL and he was 20 minutes away from making the final cut when his phone rang and Mella was told he wasn’t making the team.

After being cut by the Gamblers, Mella drove back to Shattuck to get in some ice time as he awaited his fate. The Janesville Jets, an NAHL team in Wisconsin, owned his rights, but Mella was also considering playing in Canada.

“I wasn’t sure where I was going,” Mella said. “I had my passport ready if I had to take a flight out to Canada or I could just get in my car and drive anywhere. Janesville wasn’t the right fit for me and Austin got me in a trade. I’m super happy to be here.”

Mella has been a consistent scoring threat for Austin as he had both game-winning goals in Austin’s two postseason victories to go up 2-0 on the Minnesota Wilderness in the NAHL Central Division semifinals. Mella also had 17 goals and 10 assists in 50 regular season contests for the Bruins.

He’s a natural goal scorer. He has a great shot and goes to the net,” Austin head coach Steve Howard said of Mella. “Alex needs to continue to work extremely hard going forward. I feel like he’s really seeing the rewards when he is one of the hardest workers on the ice.”

There are many ways to score a goal, whether it be on a one-timer, a one-on-one opportunity with a goalie, or a simple stick-back on a rebound. Mella has found that sometimes it’s the best idea to let the opportunity come to him.

Austin’s Alex Mella approaches the net during the second period against the MN Wilderness in game one of the team’s playoff series Friday night in Riverside Arena. Eric Johnson/

You just have to keep your feet moving, you have to clear your mind and you have to go to the front of the net,” Mella said. “I think a lot of guys don’t realize that if you stand in front of the net, sometimes the puck will just kind of land on your stick.”

Howard said that it’s nice to have a rookie in the lineup who has played at a program like Shattuck-Saint Mary’s as the transition it makes the transition to junior hockey much easier for players.

“I think [Mella’s] time at Shattuck really got him ready to play junior hockey,” Howard said. “Shattuck coaches all do such a great job with their hockey teams. The players at Shattuck are all adjusted to being away from home and playing a very competitive schedule.”

Mella has embraced Minnesota as his home away from home as he’s spent a good portion of the last five years in the state. He will eventually head back home as Mella has committed to play college hockey at Division I Northeastern, which is in downtown Boston and located three hours from Mella’s family home.

Mella isn’t sure if he’ll play another year of junior hockey next year of if he’ll go to college, but he knows he’s going to embrace the rest of the playoff run with the Bruins.

I think we’ve come together very well over the last couple of months,” Mella said. “We’re just having fun, enjoying each other’s company and going for as long as we can. This could be the last time we see each other for a long time, but I think we’re just enjoying the ride right now.”

Austin is one win away from advancing to the NAHL Central Division Finals. The Bruins will play the Minnesota Wilderness in Cloquet at 7:05 p.m. Friday and game four would be played in Cloquet at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. If there is a fifth game, it would be held in Riverside Arena at 7:05 p.m. Monday.