ORONO, Maine — It will be somewhat of a homecoming for University of Maine sophomore left wing Brian Flynn this weekend when the Black Bears and the Merrimack College Warriors, two of Hockey East’s surprise teams, square off at the Lawler Arena in North Andover, Mass.
Flynn grew up in nearby Lynnfield, Mass., and will enter the series after notching six goals and two assists in a split against UMass Lowell last weekend, including a school-record seven points (5 & 2) in Friday night’s 8-4 triumph.
“[Lynnfield] is a couple of towns over. It’s 15, 20 minutes from my house … all back roads. I played in some state tournaments at that rink. It’ll be fun to be back,” said Flynn. “There will be a lot of people [family and friends] there.”
Flynn has been on a tear of late with 10 goals and seven assists over his last 10 games.
“I had a slow start but Gus [Gustav Nyquist], Tanner [House] and I have been clicking recently and, hopefully, it will continue,” said Flynn referring to his linemates.
Right wing Nyquist has 2 & 16 in his last nine games and center House has 4 & 5 in his last nine.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Flynn has been “getting to the net front more consistently” lately and been pouncing on rebounds.
“I was shying away from the front of the net at the beginning of the year,” agreed Flynn. “I was looking for the perfect play. But now I’m getting my nose in there and banging home some dirty goals.”
Nyquist said Flynn has been “shooting the puck more” and that has been beneficial.
“Everybody knows he has a good shot, probably one of the best shots on our team, especially his wrist shot,” said Nyquist. “He’s starting to realize it and use it more.”
“He’s real smart with the puck and he puts his whole body into his shot,” said Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling.
“Coach [Whitehead] talked to our line about getting the puck to the net and keeping things simple,” said Flynn. “We did that this past weekend and we’re looking to continue that.”
Flynn was a recruited walk-on last season and had a productive season with 12 & 13 in 38 games. He finished second on the team in scoring.
He currently has 15 & 21 in 30 games.
He said the fact he didn’t receive scholarship offers has served as extra motivation.
“They didn’t think I was strong enough or something. So I came here with a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove something,” said Flynn.
“We’re very pleased with Brian’s progress. He’s on a full scholarship now and he deserves it,” said Whitehead. “We felt he was a potential diamond in the rough but you don’t know for sure until you see them every day.
“We’re fortunate we picked the right one,” added Whitehead.
“He has proven a lot of people wrong,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “A lot of guys overlooked him.
“He’s very good at getting open. He’s almost an unassuming player but if you give him a chance, he puts it in the back of the net. He also has deceptive speed. He’s got a long stride and he’s herky-jerky,” said Dennehy. “He’s a good player.”
This weekend will pit a third-place team (Maine) that was picked to finish eighth in the preseason coaches poll against a Merrimack team picked to finish 10th but is in eighth, just five points out of third.
“If you said at the beginning of the year that we’d be third right now, we’d take it. But they’ll be playing hard and, hopefully, we can match it,” said Flynn. “We’re going to have to play real well defensively, throw the puck to the net and take the goalies’ eyes away.”
He said his eight-point weekend against UMass Lowell “boosted my confidence a lot” but he will put it behind him.
“This is like a playoff series,” said Flynn.