There have never been any guarantees for Brett Carriere.
He came to the University of Maine as a defenseman. He was the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s Defenseman of the Year in 2005-06 when he had 58 points in 41 games.
But he played in just nine games as a freshman.
When the Black Bears were hit hard by injuries to forwards a year ago — only three forwards played in at least 30 of Maine’s 34 games — Carriere was moved up to wing. He appeared in 13 games, mostly at wing, and had an assist.
The junior from Ottawa, Ontario, has become a regular this season, playing both wings, and although he doesn’t have any points in six games, he has been one of the mainstays on the penalty kill that has the nation’s 14th best success rate (90.6 percent).
Maine’s penalty kill will be tested at 4 p.m. Sunday when Boston College and the nation’s fifth best power play (27.1 percent) visit.
“He has been a great penalty-killer,” said senior defenseman Matt Duffy. “He blocks a lot of shots. He plays with heart every day.”
Senior co-captain and right wing Jeff Marshall said Carriere’s speed is one of his biggest assets.
“He has a great first step and when it comes to his straight-away top speed, I’d put him up against anyone in the league,” said Marshall.
Senior co-captain and defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin called Carriere a “hard worker. He wins those battles for the puck. He gets to the puck first.”
He said Carriere’s improvement has been tremendous and his strong work ethic is contagious.
“There are guys with more skill who aren’t as gritty in the corners as he is, and when you see a guy like him working so hard, it definitely lifts the rest of the squad,” added Danis-Pepin. “He’s always in position, and he always goes 110 percent. He never glides, he always moves his feet.”
“A couple of things fell into place at the right times for me,” said Carriere. “I’ve played with some good teammates and that has made my transition [from defense to wing] easy. Every game I get to play at forward is another step toward being more comfortable.”
Carriere admits there is always frustration about not playing, “but I understood that when I came in. The coaching staff knew it was going to be a process to bring me through and get me into the lineup. So I had a lot of faith in the coaching staff and stuck with it.”
He said the pace of the game is much faster in college than juniors, “but the coaching staff and my teammates have helped me along in every area of my game.”
Although he hasn’t scored, he’s optimistic he will get on the score sheet soon.
“I’m hoping to get a little puck luck. As long as I’m getting chances, I’m happy with that. The puck will eventually go in for me,” said Carriere.
“I’m very proud of him,” said Bear coach Tim Whitehead, who has the luxury of moving him back to defense if a defenseman gets hurt in a game.
Carriere is one of several keys to the PK success.
“We’ve blocked more shots this year. Guys are willing to make sacrifices and are getting in front of the puck. And we’re working hard to get to loose pucks,” said Danis-Pepin.
“We’re trying to protect the center of the ice and keeping them to perimeter shots. We’ve been letting our goalies see the first shot and then clearing the rebounds,” said Duffy. “And we’ve been trying to move our sticks as much as possible so they don’t have any passes or shots.”