Q&A with Mark Mancari

By Jason Ahrens

Mark Mancari is a big right winger with the OHL Ottawa 67s at 6’3, 225 pounds. He was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the seventh round in 2004, 207th overall. The four-year junior veteran is coming off of his best OHL season as he scored 36 goals and added 32 assists in 64 games. Mancari =kept his success going as helped lead the 67s to the OHL final where they lost in five games to the London Knights, but were able to represent the OHL in the Memorial Cup since London was hosting the tournament. Mancari led the team in playoff scoring with 14 goals and 10 assists in 21 games and had the second best plus/minus rating on the team with +11.

Mancari is capable of scoring in bunches and has soft hands for a big man. He can be very effective in front of the net and is hard to move when he sets up shop. He has a decent skating stride and handles the puck well. He gets involved physically and often draws the ire of the opposing teams. With his size, he should be able to punish defenseman and he will need to work on getting more physical to be effective at the next level.

The London native is ending off his junior career in style, playing in front of friends and family in the Memorial Cup. When asked about how it was for his family to be able to watch him play he said, “Yeah everything is great, Dad is a little stressed watching the games and keeping an eye on everyone else. He’s having a lot of fun, this is like a dream come true for them too and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. My family is just very happy for me, happy for the team and there is not much more I can say about that.”

When asked about playing against Sidney Crosby and how the team did against him Mancari replied, ”Even strength our defense did pretty good against them and so did the lines that played against them. How many teams in the league tried to contain that line and weren’t successful? I thought we did overall a pretty good job against them and Danny Battochio played a great game again.”

Hockey’s Future spoke with him after a 3-2 double overtime victory against Kelowna and again after a 4-3 loss to Rimouski.

HF: How are you guys feeling after winning the longest Memorial Cup game in history?

MM: We are on a high right now. Coming in a lot of teams didn’t think that we were going to do very well and a lot of people thought that we wouldn’t come out of here with a win. It’s not to take anything away from Kelowna, they came out and worked extremely hard, but in a tournament like this, sometimes it comes down to the team that gets the lucky bounce is going to win. I think it showed that in the London-Rimouski game when an odd bounce turned into a 2-on-1 and turned out to be the game winner.

HF: Was it nice to have the majority of the fans cheering for you after they were booing you just a week ago in the OHL finals?

MM: Definitely. We knew coming in that the London fans would probably be behind us because we are an Ontario team. It’s great to have, whether it will make a difference down the road it’s hard to say, every team that comes into this tournament is a great team, we are just going to have play with our hearts on our sleeves and really work hard for a win.

HF: I know in the league final you had the entire team over to your parents’ house for a supper and you came out and won the next day, are you going to try that this week at some point?

MM: Yeah, Killer (Coach Brian Kilrea) let me have the guys over from the team and we had a team dinner. It was fun, it was hard on my Mom and my Dad. I think my Mom lost 30 pounds that day, making that much food for us in the kitchen it was really hot. It was a lot of fun and we came out the next day and played great. We just have to kind to bring that kind of game to the Memorial Cup. As for this week we are going to play it by ear. They are really busy with having my family down and my parents are busy working trying to put some extra hours in so that they can get down to the rink, but if it’s a possibility we are definitely going to try to take it.

HF: Tonight you scored a big shorthanded goal and it was the first time in awhile that you once you scored, it wasn’t a multiple goal game.

MM: Yeah that doesn’t really bother me. I went on a 2-on-1 and Brad Bonello gave me a great pass. Tonight was one of those nights where anyone could have scored and the guys just played unbelievable and I’m just really glad that we came out with the win.

HF: What is your current contract status with Buffalo and how did your rookie camp go last season?

MM: We can’t really talk right now with the [lockout] going on. There has been a little bit of talk, but not much right now, I think we are going to wait until the Memorial Cup is over. As for camp they just had a main camp and once the strike hit, no one could go to camp so we actually didn’t have a camp.

After the Rimouski-Ottawa game.

HF: How are you going to prepare for London, a game which will have a big say in who goes directly to the final?

MM: Same way we did in the playoffs. A lot of people didn’t give us too much of a chance against London and we went in and they took the first game by a couple of goals, we took the second game and we lost the third game by a goal. We proved that we can beat them. We are not going in thinking that London is unbeatable, we are going to play hard and we are going to play with our hearts on our sleeves and we are going to do whatever we can.

HF: Now people were saying that you guys were the underdogs coming in, how do you think your games went?

MM: Now coming in like you said a lot of people thought that we were the underdogs but we didn’t think so. We thought that we proved ourselves and we knew in the room that we had a lot of talent and we have a lot of guys with a lot of heart who are going to go out there and work harder than guys who just have talent. We feel that if we go out and play like we did in the first game, or even like we did in the playoffs against London that we can give some teams a good run here.

HF: There has been a lot of talk about Crosby and the big guns, but you ran into a pretty hot goalie tonight in Cedrick Desjardins.

MM: We knew he was a good goalie coming in, you know he’s big and he goes down but he covers up a lot of room. We knew that we had to create some rebounds or go high on him when you are in close, he definitely did play a great game.

HF: You guys fired a lot of shots at him but on plenty of other chances the shots went wide or missed the net.

MM: Their defense did a great job of blocking the shots, not letting it get through and once it was there for the rebound they were clearing it before we got to the puck and that is something we have to improve on, once the shot got there we have to beat their defense to the puck and create some opportunities for ourselves. A long shot with a rebound is useless if you are not going to go to the net.

HF: You guys were down early but came back to make a game of if, is that something that you can build from?

MM: It just shows us that we didn’t play the greatest game that we could have and we only lost by a goal. In a sense that is a compliment to our team, but at the same time it’s a kind of a bitter taste in your mouth because if we would have gone out and played like we did in the third period it could have been a different outcome.

HF: You did not seem as physical with Rimouski as you were with Kelowna, do you feel the same way?

MM: Definitely, that was something that we wanted to do coming in was to be physical, we know that they are a little bit on the smaller side on the blue line and if we finish our checks that we could create some opportunities for ourselves and we did that in the third but not in the first two.

HF: How do you prepare for teams that you haven’t played all year?

MM: It is a little bit of everything, our chance to watch these teams are when they play each other, we saw Rimouski when they played against London and we knew that we had a tough game in front of us. We watched what they did, we saw how dangerous the Crosby line was, we watched how we had to be physical on their defense, but that is something that we didn’t do. We did get a lot of shots but we didn’t have guys driving the net.

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