ORONO, Maine — It’s easy to see why Joey Diamond plays with a lot of grit and is considered fearless by his teammates.
His father Mike was a New York City police officer for 20 years before retiring. His older brother, also named Mike, is a New York City firefighter.
“I took a lot from my dad. He taught me the ropes,” said Diamond, a freshman right winger for the University of Maine men’s hockey team.
“I learned a lot of toughness from him with things he has gone through in the past. He was on harbor duty for a while. He taught me a lot of discipline and street smarts. He did everything a dad could do.
“People say I’m identical to my father. It’s the same with my brother,” said Diamond.
Diamond and his teammates will battle Boston University Friday night at 8 in a Hockey East semifinal at the TD Garden.
Diamond said his father put him on skates “as soon as I could walk.”
“He played high school hockey,” said Diamond, whose brother also played in high school and has since started playing again for his firehouse team.
The scrappy Diamond has supplied the Black Bears with a necessary agitator who makes life miserable for opposing defensemen.
“He gets to the net, he takes the goalie’s eyes away and he isn’t afraid to take abuse,” said Maine senior goalie David Wilson. “He has no fear out there. He forces defensemen into situations they don’t want to be in. He’s tough to defend and he gets under their skin.”
“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” said Maine junior center and captain Tanner House. “He gives everything he has on every shift. In the playoffs, you can see him make an impact even when he’s not scoring. He’s a hard-nosed player who draws penalties. He has been huge for us down the stretch.”
In addition to playing a regular shift, Diamond also plays on a power-play unit and is used as a penalty-killer.
He plays in the low slot on the power play, digging out pucks and screening the goalie.
“He’s good at winning loose pucks and working defensemen down low. He’s pretty good at cutbacks and stuff like that,” said Maine sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist. “He has stepped up tremendously lately.”
The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Diamond has scored six goals and assisted on two others in 30 games. He is tied with Will O’Neill for most penalty minutes with 69 but a lot of his penalties have been matching minors. And he has drawn several penalties.
“We can live with his penalties because our power play gets more chances because of him,” said Wilson.
“I don’t feel that I’ve taken too many stupid penalties. A lot have been matching,” said Diamond, a Long Beach, N.Y., native who had 42 goals and 32 assists in 45 games for the Hamilton Red Wings in the Ontario Provincial Hockey League last season.
The 20-year-old Diamond, who has played for United States Under-17 and Under-18 teams, said college hockey has been an adjustment for him “but I’m feeling more comfortable with every practice and every game. I feel like I can play my own game and stir things up a bit. I get things going to try to get us on the power play.
“I’m finally getting into the college game, I’m finally getting a rhythm into it. I just want to be consistent, that’s the main part,” said Diamond.
Dimmen is optimistic
University of Maine junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen is hopeful he can play against BU.
Dimmen suffered a leg injury late in Saturday night’s 2-0 win over UMass Lowell in the second game of their Hockey East quarterfinal series.
He took the ice in pregame warm-ups before Sunday’s game but couldn’t go, so freshman center Matt Mangene was moved back to defense and freshman Kyle Beattie took Mangene’s spot up front.
Dimmen is tied for fourth in the country among defensemen in goals with 12 and his 29 points are 11th.
He is an integral part of the power play and the penalty kill.
“It feels a lot better. I should be ready to go by Friday,” said Dimmen. “I’m going to try it out [Thursday].”
Maine is thin on defense.
Junior Mike Banwell is sidelined with an infected knee that he discovered after Friday night’s 2-1 loss to UMass Lowell. Freshman Nick Pryor is out with season-ending hip surgery and senior Brett Carriere, who has played both center and defense, re-injured his knee Friday night.