It was March 24, 2007.
Maine was trying to protect a 3-1 lead in their NCAA Tournament quarterfinal game against UMass in Rochester, N.Y., when freshman center David deKastrozza was assessed an interference penalty with just 1:29 left in regulation.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” grinned deKastrozza Thursday. “I was so nervous. I thought I was going to cost us the game.”
But Maine survived for a 3-1 win and a trip to St. Louis for the Frozen Four.
DeKastrozza and fellow seniors Brett Carriere, Kevin Swallow and David Wilson will make their last regular-season appearances at Alfond Arena this weekend when Maine hosts UMass for a pair of games. They will be honored on Saturday night.
“I’m very proud of this group of seniors,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “They’ve persevered. They’ve found a way to become very important members of our team, especially this year. They set a great example for the underclassmen to follow.”
“They’ve really worked hard and put in their time and they’ve really stepped it up this year,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen.
“Swallow has turned into a great penalty-killer and all around forward; [deKastrozza] has been using his big body this year and has been producing really well for us; Carriere brings speed and toughness to the lineup when he’s healthy and [Wilson] always does well when he gets in there.”
Freshman left winger Joey Diamond added, “They’ve been great leaders. They took us in and made us feel comfortable and made sure we had fun our first year.”
The team has gone 65-68-12 during their tenure.
All four seniors said the time has gone by quickly and they have no regrets about their decisions to attend Maine.
“It was the best decision of my life,” said deKastrozza.
“It has flown by. I can’t believe it’s my senior weekend,” said defenseman-turned-forward Carriere, who has four goals and one assist in 71 career games and will return from an eight-game absence due to a knee injury tonight.
“It’s been a crazy ride. Coming in freshman year being [ranked] number one in the country and the next year not making the [Hockey East] playoffs. The following year we battled and then this year we’ve sort of come back strong, It’s been quite an experience,” added Carriere.
When it comes to career highlights, Carriere, deKastrozza and Wilson put the Frozen Four at the top of the list. Swallow transferred in from Dartmouth three years ago.
“Although we had a couple of down years after that, we could do something special this year so, hopefully, this year will be the highlight,” said right wing-center deKastrozza, who has 7 & 15 in 78 games including 7 & 10 in 29 games this season.
Wilson has posted a 5-16-1 record, a 3.18 goals-against average and an .888 save percentage in his career.
He said in addition to the Frozen Four appearance, his back-to-back 5-1 and 1-0 home wins over Vermont that year and his 34-save outing in a 2-2 tie with Boston University last season have been highlights.
Wilson admitted he wished he could have played more “but, at the same time, it was for the best of the team. Getting a degree and the friends I’ve made are highlights as well.”
Swallow sat out one year due to transfer rules before playing the last two years. He has played 114 games between the two schools and has 14 & 31.
“This season, altogether, has been a pretty good highlight,” said right wing Swallow. “It has been a good year for the team and, hopefully, we can keep it going.”
He hasn’t minded having his role altered from scorer at Dartmouth to checker at Maine.
“I just want to do what I can to help team win,” he said.
Maine All-American defenseman, U.S. Olympian and long-time NHLer (1,018 games) Keith Carney, a 2009 University of Maine Hall of Fame inductee, will drop the ceremonial puck before Friday night’s game and will also be honored. He couldn’t attend the Hall of Fame ceremony on Oct. 31.