ORONO, Maine — Robby Dee had been a left winger virtually his entire career.
But University of Maine hockey coach Tim Whitehead decided to move him to center this season.
“As a winger, we felt he was spending too much time on the perimeter and wasn’t getting as many touches on the puck as we would have liked,” explained Whitehead. “We wanted the puck on his stick more to take advantage of his talents. By moving him to center, he has been getting into better [scoring] areas and he has been getting the puck more. It has also forced him to improve his defensive play.”
The results have been noticeable.
After scoring seven goals in 57 games over his first two seasons, Dee already has 10 in just 20 games this season. Five have come in his last five games.
The Black Bears are hoping Dee can continue producing goals this weekend when Maine visits defending NCAA titlist Boston University for a two-game set.
Dee returned last weekend from a broken foot that sidelined him for four games and scored goals in each of Maine’s two wins over New Hampshire.
“I like playing center a lot more,” said Dee. “You’re free to roam around a lot more and I’m able to get into better scoring situations. You’re the last guy to come back into the offensive zone so you can get some high-slot one-timers and stuff.”
In Maine’s system, the center has more offensive freedom but he also has more defensive responsibilities as he is required to help out his defensemen in and around the net front.
“It’s not too bad. You usually aren’t stuck in the defensive zone a whole lot,” said Dee, who led the state of Minnesota in goals his senior year with 49 at the Breck School.
“He has the quickest release on the team,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “He has shown tremendous improvement each year. He’s bigger, stronger and faster and wins a lot of battles for the puck now. That really helps him.”
“I try to get four, five, six shots a game. That gives me a good opportunity to score,” said Dee whose aspirations for the rest of the season revolve around the team.
“I just want to help our team win games so we can get an NCAA [Tournament] bid,” he said.
Dee has been a regular on the power play and has four power-play goals.
“I’m getting a good opportunity to show what I can do this year,” said Dee. “And the more you play, the more confidence you have.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Plymouth, Minn., native spends time in the summer working on his speed and strength and it has been beneficial.
“My speed is one of my better assets and I’m using it to try to be as effective as I can out there,” he said.
“He has always had good hands but he has improved the most defensively,” said Maine senior right wing David deKastrozza, who is one of his linemates along with sophomore Spencer Abbott. “He has really turned into a two-way player. His shot is accurate and hard to stop.”
The emergence of Dee’s line as a scoring line has taken some of the pressure off the top line of Tanner House between Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn.
“That has definitely helped us this year,” said senior right wing Kevin Swallow.