ORONO, Maine — When Simon Danis-Pepin first stepped onto the University of Maine campus as a freshman, he was just 17. He was the youngest player on the Maine men’s hockey team for his first three seasons.
Now, at the ripe old age of 20, the defenseman is a senior co-captain with his sights set on helping his team erase memories of a disappointing 13-18-3 season and ninth-place finish in Hockey East.
“We have to understand what kind of game we need to play to win. We have to rely on what we have and not what we think we have. At times last year, we thought we could just put on the jersey and win,” said Danis-Pepin, who plays in all situations. “We have to play a controlled game, a smart defensive game, and we have to work hard offensively. We’ve got to grind out goals: get rebounds and muck it up in front of the net.”
Maine will have its hands full this weekend as it opens its Hockey East schedule against nationally ranked Northeastern University at Alfond Arena tonight and Saturday night.
“This will be a huge test for us. We know how important it is to get wins early in the season. They’re playing great hockey right now,” said Danis-Pepin.
The 6-foot-7 Danis-Pepin, a second-round draft pick of Chicago, has made consistent improvement throughout his career and is hoping to have a memorable senior year.
“I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made. There are a lot of things to still work on. But I’m a lot more confident and lot stronger,” said Danis-Pepin. “I worked a lot on my positioning over the summer. I’ve learned to let the [opposing forward] come to me instead of being so aggressive that [I wind up out of position and] he’s able to beat me.”
“He’s a physical presence,” said Northeastern senior center Joe Vitale. “He’s definitely somebody we’ve got to contain.”
“He has really developed well. He’s a lot stronger now, and he’s an offensive threat,” said Boston College senior right wing and captain Brock Bradford. “He gets the puck through from the blue line and he’s good at making that first [breakout] pass out of the zone.”
Danis-Pepin is Maine’s leading returning scorer from last year with a career-high 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) but offense is secondary to him.
“I’ve got to think defense first,” said Danis-Pepin. “I’ll take [offensive] chances when it’s the right time, when people are back [covering for him on defense]. I’m not going to take high-risk chances. I’ve got to help the goalies as much as I can.”
He is also taking his leadership role seriously.
“I’m looking to lead this team and help it out as much as I can. The other seniors and I want to help turn things around,” said the native of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, who was chosen to the All-Tournament team in Fairbanks, Alaska, last weekend.