ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team is putting its support behind sophomore goalie Scott Darling, who has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and offered a public apology to his coaches, teammates and the fans on Tuesday night.
Darling, who was suspended last Friday before the home series against Massachusetts, won’t play this weekend in a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against visiting UMass Lowell. Either senior David Wilson or freshman Shawn Sirman will start.
“We all support Scotty. We’re behind him 100 percent,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “Everybody loves Scotty. We’re all pulling for him.”
“We really hope he bounces back and we know he will,” said Wilson, the likely starter on Friday night after two solid relief stints last weekend. “He’s a great kid. It was a couple of [poor] decisions here and there. Everyone makes mistakes. He’ll bounce back from that.”
Darling said in a statement that he will be, “away from the team for a while as I deal with personal issues. I will work hard to return to the program when Coach [Tim] 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.”
Whitehead would neither confirm nor deny media reports that Darling’s problems were alcohol-related and said the goalie’s status will be reviewed next week if the Black Bears are able to get past the River Hawks.
It is the third time Darling has been suspended during his career.
“Everyone goes through different issues throughout their lives,” said senior center Brett Carriere. “Scotty will rebound and be stronger than ever. We’re all behind him. He’s a great kid who has never posed a problem to us.”
“We’ll do what we can to help him. He’s a pretty good team guy,” said junior center and captain Tanner House. “We know he feels bad and he’ll want to help us as much as he can.”
Sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill and junior defenseman Josh Van Dyk shared the same sentiment and said the team can’t dwell on it as they prepare for the veteran River Hawks.
“We’ve got to push that to the side,” said Van Dyk. “We obviously wish the best for Scotty and, hopefully, it all turns around for him. He’s a great goalie. It’s too bad and it’s too bad it’s happening right now. But we’ve got two other great goalies in our dressing room and we’ve just got to play [well] for them.”
O’Neill said the Bears need to stay focused and follow their routines every day.
“We have to try not to get untracked,” he said. “People make mistakes but we aren’t worrying about it now. We’ve got a game Friday and that’s all we’re worrying about.”
Darling started all three Maine playoff games in the quarterfinal series at Boston University last season but Wilson does have some playoff experience. He played in Maine’s 3-2 and 5-2 losses at UMass in their 2007 quarterfinal series.
Wilson was playing in place of the injured Ben Bishop.
“I’m really excited,” said Wilson.