ORONO — Kelen Corkum hasn’t played in a hockey game since October, 2008.
That will change on Sunday afternoon when he suits up for the University of Maine Black Bears for their exhibition game at Alfond Arena against Acadia University of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Game time is 4 p.m.
Corkum, son of Black Bear assistant coach Bob Corkum, was a victim of post-concussion syndrome after suffering several concussions.
He had a series of ailments like excruciating headaches and depression that left him staring at an uncertain future.
He had to avoid any kind of exertion for a period of time before he slowly started getting better. He was eventually able to begin working out again and attend school.
He has now been symptom-free for 13 months and said he will be both nervous and excited when they drop the puck on Sunday.
“I’m more excited than nervous. I’ll use my nerves in a positive way,” said Corkum, who last played for the New Hampshire Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. He had previously played for the United States Under-17 and Under-18 National Team Development Program squads.
Corkum will be one of six newcomers expected to get some ice time against the Axemen.
He feels his adjustment to the pace of the game has gone well “but you can’t really tell until game time.”
Maine has had captain’s practices and some small-group skill sessions with the coaches as well as two hours a week of structured practices with the coaching staff.
“During practice, the biggest thing for me to work on was the tempo and the pace of the game and feeling comfortable on the ice. That’s key. And this week I’ve felt really comfortable,” said Corkum, a center.
The game will also be special for Mark Anthoine, the Lewiston native who will make his debut for the team he followed as a youngster.
“It’s awesome. I’m excited,” said Anthoine. “I’ll definitely be nervous. I’m coming into something new and unknown. I played with guys the last couple of years that I was comfortable with. Now this is all something new. We’ve had a few practices here and there and I’ve just been trying to get comfortable with the game speed.
“There’s a lot of good talent here so it’s going to be really exciting,” said winger Anthoine, who played for the Chicago Steel and Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States (Junior) Hockey League last season and had 27 goals and 25 assists in 60 games.
Anthoine said he didn’t get much chance to see the Black Bears because “we were an hour and 45 minutes away and I was always busy with my hockey stuff” but he always paid attention to them.
“I always loved the team. I remember guys like Paul Kariya and (Jim) Montgomery and all those guys. They were amazing. And what they’ve done coming from here and what the program has done is amazing.”
Even though the game won’t count, the Maine players feel it will be a valuable test before opening their season next Friday and Saturday against UMass Lowell and the University of Connecticut, respectively.
“It will be a good opportunity for us to quit beating up on each other (and face somebody else),” said senior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen. “We’ve had a long preseason and now it’s time to sharpen up for the start of the season.”
Dimmen said having an exhibition game before the season opener “takes a little pressure off guys. We can really go out there and work on stuff and get ready for the season.”
Senior center and captain Tanner House said he hopes the team can get its pre-game preparation down and be focused.
“We’ll need to keep it simple at the start. We don’t want to be trying to do too much,” he said. “We want to work hard, work together. Play in our defensive zone first and have some fun.
“This is a good step for us to play these guys first. The game doesn’t mean anything but we want to be prepared. We’re treating it like a real game and we want to use it to build momentum to start our season.”
Junior right wing and assistant captain Gustav Nyquist added, “It’s a perfect opportunity for everyone to show what they can do out there. We’ll be playing a lot of guys and it will help us get in game shape as well.”