University of Maine sophomore goalie Scott Darling, suspended indefinitely for violating men’s hockey team rules, made a public apology through a statement released by the university Tuesday night.
He will not be available for this weekend’s best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against the visiting UMass Lowell River Hawks, according to head coach Tim Whitehead.
“I’ll be away from the team for a while as I deal with personal issues,” said Darling in the statement. “I understand the reasons for my suspension and accept responsibility for my actions.
“I apologize to my teammates, coaches and our fans and I will work hard to return to the program when Coach Whitehead decides it is appropriate. I am thankful for the support I have received and I am determined to learn from this situation and return ready to contribute in a significant way.”
It is the third time Darling has been suspended in his two seasons at Maine.
He was assessed a one-game suspension for missing a work-out last season and missed the first two games of the current season for violating the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct last spring.
His current suspension was handed out by Whitehead before Friday night’s 5-2 loss to UMass at Alfond Arena.
Senior Dave Wilson and freshman Shawn Sirman will handle the goaltending chores.
Darling, who missed two games in the middle of the season with a sprained medial collateral (knee) ligament, has had an up-and-down season.
He has Hockey East’s second-best winning percentage (.688) with his 15-6-3 record, but he is just 11th in goals-against average (3.10) and 12th in save percentage (.895).
He had a 2.04 GAA and a .927 save percentage during a 7-0-2 Maine streak, but in his last five starts, he posted a 4.93 GAA and an .831 save percentage.
“Scott is still very much a part of our team. I’m very proud of him. It takes a lot of courage to step up and make a public apology like he did,” said Whitehead. “I’m confident he’s moving in the right direction.”
Whitehead said if the Bears win this weekend’s series, Darling’s status will be re-evaluated next week.
To rejoin the team, Whitehead said Darling “will need to continue to follow through with his responsibility and keep moving in the right direction.
“He’s a great kid and a great athlete and I’m certainly very hopeful he can rejoin our team in the near future.”
Whitehead would not confirm or deny media reports that Darling’s problems stem from alcohol.
Whitehead said he doesn’t anticipate Darling’s situation to be a distraction this weekend.
“The team cares a lot about Scott, but they also want to extend the season and that’s their primary focus right now,” said Whitehead.
Wilson is 0-3 with a 2.84 GAA and a .871 save percentage this season while Sirman is 1-6 with a 5.19 GAA and a .832 save percentage. Sirman started both losses to UMass last weekend but was pulled in favor of Wilson in both games after being ineffective.
“Shawn and David have shown very good signs of being able to help our team win hockey games. Both will be ready to go and we’ll decide after practice on Thursday who will start, and we’ll announce it on Friday,” said Whitehead.