ORONO — Six of the University of Maine’s seven freshmen made their Alfond Arena debuts Sunday evening in the 5-1 exhibition victory over Acadia University of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and they impressed their peers.
“I thought the freshmen played very well,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “I was pleased with all of them. Everyone proved they could play at this level. We knew that already since we recruited them and this should give them a little boost of confidence going forward.
“They didn’t just survive the game, they all showed they can help us,” he added. “They all contributed in a positive way.”
Goalie Martin Ouellete didn’t play due to a sprained ankle but could be available this weekend when Maine opens the season by hosting UMass Lowell and the University of Connecticut on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.
Carlos Amestoy played right wing on a line with junior left wing Theo Andersson and sophomore center Klas Leidermark; Jon Swavely centered an all-freshman line between left wing Mark Anthoine of Lewiston and Kelen Corkum; Brice O’Connor saw duty on defense and goalie Dan Sullivan played the second half of the game after replacing sophomore Shawn Sirman.
Corkum scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on which Swavely and O’Connor assisted and Sullivan finished with seven saves on eight shots.
The exhibition game attracted 4,072 fans.
Maine senior center and captain Tanner House said the freshmen looked good.
“They worked hard. They were getting in on the forecheck and buzzing around. They didn’t back down from the physical side of the game,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in league play.”
The freshmen were satisfied with the way they played and said their first game at Alfond Arena will supply them with a lasting memory.
They also said they learned some valuable lessons.
“When you come out of that tunnel (for the start of the game), there’s no feeling like it in the world,” said O’Connor. “I couldn’t take the smile off my face. I had never been to a game here but I heard people talk-up the fans unbelievably. But you don’t know what it’s really like until you experience it.”
Amestoy added, “I thought I was dreaming during the warm-ups.”
Swavely called the atmosphere “pretty electrifying” and said he enjoyed himself.
“It was amazing,” said Anthoine. “It was fun to see the crowd there. I had some family members there and just to be out there wearing the blue and white was awesome.”
Sullivan said he was nervous when he went in midway through the second period but the student section in the balcony above him made him feel welcome.
“They chanted my name for a couple of seconds. It was nice to have their support. Knowing the fans were backing me up made me feel at home,” he said. “It was a really good atmosphere.”
Corkum said he had a lot of fun.
“I thought we all played well. Everyone did what they could. We all played physical and did the simple things we knew we needed to do,” he said.
Anthoine added, “I thought we held our own. We did prety well.”
The players came away with a little more confidence and a better understanding of what it’s going to be like to play for Maine, Swavely said.
“We feel we belong here,” Amestoy added.
Concerning the defensive aspect of the game, Swavely said he learned that “you need to have your head on a swivel.”
“I have to realize my surroundings and what’s going on and just be more aware out there, I guess,” he explained.
“I’ve got to look to support my teammates around the puck and make a quick transition,” said Anthoine.
The freshmen said the tempo was noticeably higher than they were used to.
“It’s a lot quicker,” said Corkum. “I’ve got to work on that in practice.”
Anthoine added, “Hopefully, I’ll get acclimated.”
Leidermark likely to be sidelined
Maine’s Leidermark suffered a concussion and facial lacerations after absorbing a hit Sunday and he is doubtful for the weekend, according to Whitehead.
“He was much better today. There’s an outside chance he could play Saturday but it’s very unlikely,” said Whitehead.
Andersson will play on the fourth line with two of the four freshmen, according to Whitehead.
Junior defenseman Ryan Hegarty is likely to remain sidelined by an ankle injury, Whitehead added.
But Ouellette has been upgraded to “possible” for the weekend by the Maine coach.
Whitehead was encouraged by the play of the all-sophomore line of Matt Mangene between left wing Adam Shemansky and right wing Kyle Beattie. They were linemates for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs in the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
“They had a real solid game,” said Whitehead. “They scored a goal and had just one scoring chance against them. They have all shown signs of improvement. They are bigger, stronger and faster than a year ago. They’re more assertive and seem more comfortable out there.
“It would certainly be a big plus if we can establish a legitimate third line.”
Beattie scored the goal with Shemansky and Mangene assisting.