AMHERST – It didn’t take long for Ben Berisha to become a fan favourite.
Acquired from the Summerside Western Capitals just before the start of the regular season, Berisha has teamed up with Brock Morrison and Maxime Richard to become one of the Amherst Ramblers’ top offensive lines.
But, it’s his mix of offence and grit that has made him popular to fans.
“People have said I play sort of like Mike Richards, and when I was trying try not to be someone else, though. I do try to bring the elements of a few players, but really I just try to go out and work hard every shift,” said the 20-year-old Toronto native who now lives in Mississauga, Ont.
Berisha came to the league last season after spending time with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. He scored 13 goals and added 23 assists for 36 points in 50 games with the Caps before going to Amherst in September with Morrison for the rights to Mitch Maynard.
“It was a shock,” Berisha said of the trade. “I had to listen to my voicemail several times before it finally sunk in, but I knew mentally I would only go to two teams and Amherst was one of them. I talked to Jimbo and liked what I heard about Amherst. I’m glad I came here, it’s a great hockey town to play in.”
Berisha didn’t know much about the league before arriving last season. He knew some former teammates that had played in Woodstock, but admitted to being surprised with the quality once he arrived.
“When I came out here I was really surprised. The league was a lot stronger than I thought it would be and the fans are a lot better,” he said.
Berisha, who played Midget AAA in Toronto and Brampton and junior with Orangeville, Streetsville and the Dixie Beehives, had a slow start with his new team, but caught fire in late October scoring five times in three games.
“I didn’t worry about it because I knew it would come. I’m a gritty hockey player and I know that if I get the puck it has a chance of going in,” he said. “I have a couple of good linemates and we’re playing well together. I had a chance to play on a line with Brock last year in Summerside and working with Max is great.”
Looking ahead to the weekend, Berisha is hoping for a couple of wins for the Ramblers, who host the Weeks Crushers on Saturday before travelling to Bridgewater to play the Lumberjacks on Sunday.
“Against Pictou we just have to get back to what we have been doing. Sometimes you run into a hot goalie like we did against Yarmouth. We’re a good team. We just have to keep playing like we’ve been playing and things will work out for us,” Berisha said.
Ramblers’ coach and general manager Jim Bottomley said Berisha has become a leader in his short time in Amherst.
“He’s been a big surprise. I knew he was pretty good when he came from Summerside, but I’ve been surprised with how he plays in the areas a lot of players don’t like to go,” Bottomley said. “You don’t just see him around the perimeter. He backchecks, he scores goals, he throws the body.”