ORONO — University of Maine defenseman Nick Pryor hasn’t played in a regular-season men’s hockey game since a 3-1 victory over the visiting Providence College Friars on Dec. 5.
Pryor, who had hip surgery in March, is expected to return to the Black Bear lineup to help the ailing power play this weekend when the Black Bears visit the Friars for a two-game set.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he isn’t sure whether Pryor will play on defense or on a wing, but he will be used on the point on the power play.
Maine has scored just three power-play goals in its last 35 chances and continues to be without two of its power-play point men due to injuries: senior Jeff Dimmen (ankle) and junior Will O’Neill (knee).
“Hopefully, he’ll be able to jump-start our power play a little bit,” said Whitehead. “He has looked good in practice.”
“I’m really excited about getting in there and being on the power play,” said sophomore Pryor. “I’ve been getting back into it, but we’re playing well so it has been hard for me to get in there.”
Pryor suffered the injury in a 5-2 loss at the University of New Hampshire on Oct. 24, 2009.
“It bothered me up until Christmas. I finally got an MRI and they found out what was going on,” said Pryor. “They told me I could try to play through it or I could get the surgery. I tried to play through it and it just didn’t work out. So I ended up getting the surgery.”
Pryor said he had a labrum (cartilage) tear in the hip socket and bone spurs.
“So they shaved down the bone spurs and fixed the labrum,” explained Pryor, who appeared in six games and didn’t register a point.
The surgery kept him off the ice for six months.
“It took me a while to get back into it. But now it feels great,” said Pryor, whose recovery was hampered by limitations from the surgery.
“The only thing I could do was work out and lift. I actually couldn’t even do too many leg workouts, either. I could only do upper body for a long time. That kind of set me back a little bit.”
He played in the 5-1 exhibition win over Acadia University (Nova Scotia) on Oct. 3 and picked up an assist on Brian Flynn’s power-play goal.
“Nick’s a very skilled offensive guy,” said junior left wing Flynn. “He had a lot of points in juniors, running the power play. I’m sure he’ll be ready to step in and fill any role.”
“I don’t think he’ll miss a step,” said junior left wing Spencer Abbott. “He has a really hard shot and a quick release on it.”
Senior center and captain Tanner House added, “He has good poise on the point (on the power play). Hopefully, he’ll take advantage of the opportunity.”
Pryor said, that he’s always felt comfortable on the power play, either moving the puck or shooting it.
It doesn’t matter whether he plays wing or defense in even-strength situations.
“I just want to get in the lineup and help the team out,” he said. “Hopefully, I can bring something to the power play. At forward, I feel like I’m a good skater who can get up and down the wing. And I can use my shot. On defense, I’d move the puck up to the forwards. Playing wing is pretty easy. You need to know your defensive role and get pucks to the net.”
Pryor, a seventh-round draft choice of Anaheim, had 10 goals and 16 assists in 43 games for Waterloo, Iowa, in the U.S. Junior Hockey League two years ago.
Maine looking for road wins
The Black Bears have gone just 1-3-2 on the road and will try to change that trend against a Providence College team that is 3-0-2 at home this season. Maine is 5-0-1 at its Alfond Arena.
“There’s a big home-ice advantage in college hockey,” said Whitehead. “We’ve played pretty well on the road. We’ve generated a lot of chances. There’s a fine line between winning, tying and losing. We’ve got to focus on executing (our game plan) offensively and defensively.”
“For the most part, we’ve had some good efforts,” said House. “For whatever reason, we haven’t been as consistent as we’d like to be. At home, we get the crowd behind us and we can really get rolling and keep the pressure on (our opponents). On the road, we’ve got to find ways to keep putting pressure on them.”
Abbott added, “We’ve got to battle it out and get kind of an ugly win. We’ve got to play the body all over the ice and get in their faces. We don’t want to give them time to make plays.”
“We’ve got to get a little jump right out of the gate and sustain it throughout the game,” said Flynn. “It’s tough to get off to a quick start and maintain it on the road.”