Massachusetts defenseman Michael Marcou has heard all of the comparisons to his older brother and former teammate James. However, the junior will use his older brother’s guidance in hopes of making his own legacy at UMass.
“[James] always took me by the arm and showed me the right road to go on,” he said. “There’s a little pressure, but I’m ready for it.”
Mike, a junior on the Massachusetts hockey team, grew up in Kings Park, N.Y., with his parents James and Diane and his siblings Nicole and James. Fans of the UMass hockey program likely know the Marcou name from watching James play last season or from his current role playing professional hockey for the Worcester Sharks, the AHL affiliate of the NHL San Jose Sharks..
James scored 51 points in 2009-10, the fourth-highest point total in Minutemen history. He tallied 11 goals and a school-record 40 assists and was named to the New England Hockey Writers All-Star team and the Hockey East All-Star second team.
James decided to make the jump to professional hockey after his junior season, leaving the school as the career assists leader with 96.
He also left his brother to uphold the Marcou name in a maroon and white uniform.
Mike played for the United States Hockey League before coming to UMass as a member of the Waterloo Blackhawks for two seasons. He helped the Blackhawks reach the Clark Cup Finals in both seasons, recording three goals and 13 assists.
In 56 career games, Mike scored 11 points, including seven goals and four assists. Thus far this season, he has three points in three games (one goal, two assists), all of which came in two games at Minnesota.
As much as Mike is likened to his brother, he isn‘t phased by the comparisons. The two have a good relationship and Mike sees James as an outlet to talk about playing better on the ice, although, neither prefers to have hockey be the focal point of discussion.
“Mikey’s definitely not jealous,” James said. “He’s trying to do the same thing as every hockey player. He’s working towards that and he had a good year last year. He’s an assistant captain this year, so he’s pretty happy about that.”
“We kind of just joke around when we talk to each other,” Mike said. “We talk about how we play and the things we could have done differently. [James has] got pretty big shoes to fill. We’ve been playing different positions, so we’ve never really been competitive with hockey, just who gets the front seat of the car.”
James plays forward, so Mike doesn’t feel that the direct comparisons between he and his brother are entirely accurate, but nonetheless, his legacy still matters. James plays right wing for the Sharks and whether it is his position on the ice or his vaunted status as a professional hockey player, he has been the more well-known Marcou when it comes to hockey.
Yet, UMass coach Don Cahoon has watched Mike mature over his two plus seasons with the Minutemen and is impressed by his level of growth, saying that Mike exhibits qualities that go beyond his brother’s accomplishments.
“I think Michael has always been in James’s shadow, in that James is the more interesting of the players growing up, in terms of the dynamics,” Cahoon said. “Michael has made great gains in the last three or fours years and has improved at a faster rate than James or most people around him. He has really surpassed my expectation in terms of what I thought we would get out of him game in and game out.”
“I don’t think Mike pays a lot of attention to those comparisons. Michael’s very much his own man. He’s comfortable in his own skin. He’s got a great sense of humor, a strong personality. Michael’s going to do just fine on his own. James knows that, his family knows that and that’s one of the reasons he is wearing the ‘A’ on his jersey. He is his own man and he’s going to make contributions on his own merit.”
Mike was elected as an assistant captain by his teammates before the season, along with T.J. Syner and Danny Hobbs. The honor is a sign of Mike’s elevated role and growth as a player and a leader on a young team.
With 13 freshmen on this season’s roster, including seven defensemen, Mike is expected to perform at a high level. As his brother did for him, he hopes to set an example for the younger players while maintaining the level of play becoming of a Marcou.
“I like to get up in the offense, but I also have to show some of the younger guys that you still have to be a solid defensemen. I also have to lead by example on and off the ice.”
Dan Gigliotti can be reached at email@example.com.