ORONO — Joey Diamond had his ups and downs as a freshman right winger for the University of Maine men’s hockey team last season as he made the transition from junior hockey to college hockey.
But he played his best hockey at the end of the year and hopes to build off that this season.
Diamond was chosen the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for March when he notched three goals and two assists in seven games.
He had a highlight-reel goal in the 5-2 win over Boston University in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals and had a pair of goals and an assist against Boston College in the 7-6 overtime championship game loss, including the tying goal with 27.3 seconds left in regulation.
He was named to the Hockey East All-Tournament Team.
“I just basically want to take how I ended last year and bring it into this year with a lot of intensity,” said Diamond during the team’s media day on Thursday at Alfond Arena. “I feel more comfortable this year, I had a great summer in the weight room back home and I have more confidence.
“I think we have a great team coming in, we have a great freshman class. And we know what we have to do to get it done this year. It was great taking Boston College into overtime last year and they wound up winning the national championship. We obviously would have liked to have had a better outcome but it gave all of us a lot of confidence to take into this year.”
The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Diamond finished with nine goals and three assists in 32 games despite being plagued by nagging shoulder and ankle injuries.
His teammates are looking for a productive year from Diamond.
“Obviously, he finished very strong and we expect him to keep building off that,” said senior center and captain Tanner House. “He had a good summer of training and stuff. We want him to be confident. That was the biggest thing with him throughout the year, he just started gaining more and more confidence.
“As long as he’s confident and does the little things right, those goals will come,” House added.
“He made great strides at the end of the season,” said senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “We’re looking for him to improve on that and start the season hot like he ended it last season.
“He’s a great scorer with really good skill and he’s a tenacious player. He’s a guy you hate to play against but love to have on your team,” Dimmen added.
The hard-nosed Diamond led the team in penalty minutes with 73 last season.
Diamond said the pace of college hockey was “lot faster” than junior hockey and it took him a while to adapt to it.
“But I felt more and more comfortable with every game and practice,” said Diamond. “Toward the middle to the end of the year, I felt like myself again. Playing here with the fans helped out tremendously.”
He worked on improving his strength and his speed over the summer and is hoping to begin reaping the benefits on Sunday at 4 p.m. when Maine opens the season with an exhibition game against the visiting Acadia University (Nova Scotia) Axemen.
He will play on a line with senior center Robby Dee and junior left wing Spencer Abbott.
“He has looked good in practice. Our chemistry has been real good. We can’t wait to play in a game,” said Abbott.
Diamond, a Long Beach, N.Y. native, is looking forward to having a good season.
“I just want to contribute to the team. I’m going to make sure I get my job done and whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll be there to do it,” said Diamond, who had 42 goals and 32 assists in 45 games for the Hamilton Red Wings in the Ontario Provincial Hockey League two years ago after playing for the Omaha Lancers in the United States Junior Hockey League the previous year.