Athlete of the month: Mark Meinecke ignites offense in defense
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After the Vikings hockey team missed out on the playoffs last year, defenseman Mark Meinecke was invited to attend the national hockey development camp over the summer before entering the 2016-17 season. He was determined to stop history from repeating itself.
Although he’s only a sophomore, Meinecke is already a top-three defenseman for the third place Whitman hockey team (8–3–1) which is positioned for a playoff run.
“This year, we believe that we have a good chance at not just making the playoffs, but going far in them,” Meinecke said. “I’m working my hardest to support the team and be a strong part of it. Every player is contributing, and that’s why we are winning games.”
Meinecke’s contributions are not confined to the defensive side. He’s also second in both goals and points for the Vikings, with 9 and 16, respectively.
“Mobile offensive defensemen are almost a necessity in hockey these days,” Whitman hockey coach Tom Sneddon said. “Mark, along with a few of our other defensemen, is very talented in terms of offensive production.”
Meinecke began his hockey career at a young age; he learned to skate at age three and joined his first competitive travel team at age eight. Joining a team with high-skill players was a humbling experience and sparked his competitive nature and desire to improve, he said.
“When I saw the type of competition at the travel level, I was excited by it, but I was at the bottom of the pack,” Meinecke said. “From then on, I tried my hardest to be the best.”
Through steady commitment and work with his coaches and teammates, Meinecke has a strong presence on the ice.
“I don’t think I’ve met anyone more committed to hockey,” fellow Whitman defenseman Daniel Stevens said. “I was talking to [Meinecke] the other day, and he said he has been on the ice nearly every day for the past week or two. This is clearly seen in his ability to make plays happen either alone or with others.”
In the Vikings’ greatest effort of the season, a 4–3 win over the Landon Bears, Meinecke scored a goal and added an assist. Despite his individual prowess, he prides himself on his teamwork and says it’s the most important part of his game.
Sneddon agrees that a unified team effort is the key to success on the ice but acknowledges Meinecke’s importance as a catalyst to that process.
“Mark, to his credit, is a hardworking player who happens to be very talented,” Sneddon said. “Like all of our players, if he applies his talents in a way that benefits the team, we will be successful. We are very lucky to have him.”