Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2018

Four 2018 Olympians with one thing in common: Mercyhurst University When the puck dropped at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Mercyhurst University was well represented on the ice. Four Lakers competed: Ryan Zapolski ’11 with Team USA; Meghan Agosta ‘11 and Bailey Bram ‘12 with Team Canada; and current student-athlete Emma Nuutinen with Team Finland. That Mercyhurst’s men’s and women’s ice hockey programs – and coaches Rick Gotkin and Mike Sisti – have produced Olympic-caliber athletes comes as no surprise to those familiar with the Lakers’ storied spirit of competition. Ryan Zapolski ’11

When the National Hockey League (NHL) elected not to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, it opened the door for Zapolski, who played for Mercyhurst from 2007 to 2011 and now plays for Finland-based Jokerit in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He was named starting goaltender for Team USA. “For guys like me, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think that is something that we will all use as motivation – to not let a chance like this go to waste,” he said after his selection. Zapolski got a late start in youth hockey, not in the crease until age 11. He went on to play at Erie’s Cathedral Preparatory School and then enrolled at Mercyhurst. After graduating, Zapolski started his pro career with the ECHL, where he became just the second player in history to be named Rookie of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, First Team All-Star and MVP in a single ECHL season. Determined to play at the highest level, he traveled overseas and was signed by the Finnish pro team Lukko, where he spent a couple seasons before jumping to Jokerit and leading the team to a 15-game win streak last year. Just before heading to South Korea, Zapolski spent a week in Erie with his family and continued his workouts at the Mercyhurst Ice Center. During a media event at the MIC, Erie Mayor Joseph Schember issued a proclamation in his honor and his alma mater retired the #35 jersey he wore during his playing days as a Laker. Ryan and his wife, Elizabeth Fisher, were high school sweethearts who attended Mercyhurst together, Ryan studying biology and Elizabeth marketing. They were married in Christ the King Chapel on Aug. 1, 2015. Zapolski summed up his feelings this way: “I am honored to have the chance to play for our great country and carry on such a strong hockey tradition. Being able to represent Erie and Mercyhurst is really special to me and I hope it can inspire future generations of kids to really believe in their goals and to never give up on your dreams!”

Top: Young fans Sam Wilkosz, 4 (in goalie mask), and Ian Wilkosz, 2, were thrilled to meet Olympian Ryan Zapolski during a Mercyhurst visit. Bottom: Honoring Ryan Zapolski before his departure for South Korea are from left: Bill Flanagan and Father Scott Jabo of Cathedral Prep; Erie Mayor Joseph Schember; Zapolski; President Michael T. Victor; and Rick Gotkin, head men’s hockey coach. 2

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