Bears’ fate centers on Darling

Posted Dec. 29, 2009, at 10:45 p.m.

They probably receive too much credit when their team wins and too much blame when their team loses.

But that goes with the territory. That’s the life of a hockey goaltender.

For the University of Maine men’s hockey team, sophomore goalie Scott Darling will have a major say in just how far they will go this season.

They have certainly been a surprise so far.

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They were picked to finish eighth in Hockey East and are currently sitting in third place with the same number of league wins they had all of last season, seven.

Darling had allowed one goal in five consecutive starts until Princeton lit him up for six goals in Tuesday’s Florida College Classic 6-6 tie.

Maine did win the shootout 3-2 to advance to the title game.

Darling had a terrific first half last season and then fell apart in the second half as did the team, winning just three games after Dec. 13.

Darling maintains that this season is different.

He said he learned a lot about himself and the mental aspect of the game.

He discovered that you can be your own worst enemy. He has maintained that philosophy since the first day of training camp.

“I was too stressed out. I was too hard on myself. I blamed everything on myself and it caught up with me in the second half,” he said after last Saturday night’s practice.

“I’m a little more relaxed now. I know it’s only a game and I’m here to have fun,” said Darling.

He also said that the team chemistry is different this season and that should help them avoid a second-half collapse.

“We have great leaders with Tanner [House] and [Jeff Dimmen] and I have two good goalie partners [Dave Wilson and Shawn Sirman],” said Darling.

He said the entire team is “on the same page.

“Nobody is trying to do his own thing and it’s showing,” Darling said. “We’re all very driven. There’s no way we’re going to hit a wall like that again.”

Like his predecessor, Ben Bishop, Darling (6-foot-6) is a tall goalie. That means it is of the utmost importance for him to minimize his movement which will enable him to capitalize on his size. He needs to be at the top of his crease and square to the shooter, who won’t have much to shoot at.

It takes taller goalies longer to get back into position after the initial save so they may not be capable of making second and third saves.

Goalies get themselves into trouble when they try to make saves instead of just stopping the puck.

When they try to make saves, they are often flopping everywhere. That leads to exposed nets.

Darling has some other positives in his corner this season.

His defense corps is better and more experienced. They are better at blocking shots and stronger on the puck.

And the forwards are quicker and more skilled.

Maine is scoring nearly a goal and a half per game more than a year ago so if Darling has an off game, they can still manage to outscore the opponent. They couldn’t do that a year ago.

Having faster forwards means opponents won’t have as much time and space to make plays as they did a year ago.

Maine’s boost in team speed will also limit the opponents’ odd-man rushes.

The other positive is that if Darling does go into a slump, senior Wilson has certainly improved and freshman Sirman has promise.

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