One of the benefits of an exhibition game is it provides an opportunity for the coaching staff to experiment with the lineup.
University of Maine men's hockey coach Tim Whitehead and assistants Bob Corkum and Dan Kerluke played nine defensemen along with four lines during Sunday's 5-1 victory over the United States National Development Team Under-18 squad at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
Sophomore Matt Mangene was playing his second straight game on defense after spending 17 games as a forward.
He played some defense in Junior hockey when he played for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, but Whitehead also likes having the swift-skating Mangene as his third-line center.
Mangene has said it doesn't matter to him where he plays, he just wants to play where the team needs him the most.
He played one game on defense last season, filling in for an injured Jeff Dimmen in Maine's 3-2 overtime win over UMass Lowell in the third and deciding game of their best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series.
"I'd like to keep him on defense. But I may have to keep him at center until we get more consistency from our third- and fourth-line forwards," said Whitehead. "Defense is his true position."
Whitehead feels Mangene's speed enables him to not only to pull away from forecheckers in the defensive zone and carry the puck out of the zone, it also helps him recover and get back into position as well as jump into the attack.
"He has become one of our best players. He is so versatile," said Whitehead. "He has great hockey sense, and he's extremely mobile."
Mangene scored the game-winner in the 3-2 overtime win over Cornell in the consolation game at the Florida College Classic by joining the rush and one-timing a Spencer Abbott pass home.
Freshman Jon Swavely and redshirt freshman Kelen Corkum centered the the third and fourth lines, respectively, Sunday.
Sophomores Klas Leidermark and Kyle Beattie are also very much in the picture for more playing time.
Leidermark has been primarily used at center but his flight from Sweden was canceled, so he couldn't get back to Maine until Jan. 1. He missed the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla., and the exhibition game in Portland.
"I'll have to see this week if Klas is in game shape," said Whitehead.
Beattie took a shot on the foot in the 4-1 loss to Miami in their Florida College Classic opener and win over Cornell as well as Sunday's game.
But Whitehead said Beattie will be available for Saturday's important Hockey East game at Merrimack College.
"But I feel Kyle would be better off at wing," he said.
Maine has seven healthy defensemen, not counting Mangene, and senior assistant captain Dimmen has an outside chance to return for the Merrimack game after missing seven games with a sprained ankle. However, Whitehead indicated it is more likely that he will return for the Jan. 14 home game against Providence.
Whitehead also did some experimenting with his top two lines.
He swapped centers during the game as he moved Robby Dee between Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn and had Tanner House centering for Spencer Abbott and Joey Diamond.
"Our lineup isn't set by any means. We're going to try different options throughout the season," said Whitehead.
He said it doesn't matter to the players which lines they're on.
"They all have confidence in each other. We'll just do what we need to do that will help the team the most," he said.
The three power-play goals in 10 chances against Team USA were a welcome sight for Whitehead. It is the fourth straight game in which Maine has scored a power-play goal.
Maine had gone five straight games without a power-play goal before snapping an 0-for-33 slump in a 4-1 win over Massachusetts.
"It is starting to come around and we'll need it to," said Whitehead.
The return of junior defenseman Will O'Neill from a knee injury definitely gave the power play a boost, he added.
Whitehead said sophomore defenseman Nick Pryor will be sidelined "indefinitely" after suffering a concussion in Sunday's game.
The Bear coach also announced that next year's opponent in Portland will be Clarkson from the ECAC.
Clarkson will also play Maine in the Florida College Classic while the other co-host, Cornell, will face Massachusetts in the opening round.