ORONO — Kyle Beattie didn’t learn to play hockey in your typical hockey environment.
The University of Maine sophomore right winger started playing hockey in Germany and Arizona before joining the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League two years ago.
His father, Tom, was a career man in the United States Air Force so the family moved around.
Last season was a transition year for him but he has started to emerge as a quality top-two-lines forward with a bright future for the Black Bears.
He posted his first two-goal game in Saturday’s 5-4 loss at New Hampshire and is looking to build on that this weekend when Maine hosts Vermont in Orono for a crucial two-game Hockey East series.
“I’m comfortable out there and I’m playing with more confidence,” said Beattie. “I feel normal. I’m confident that I can make plays. I’m not intimidated by the level of play any more.”
“He has really come along for us,” said Maine associate head coach Bob Corkum, who coached Beattie when he was with the Monarchs. “It was a big jump for him last year. But he has learned the systems and gotten stronger. He has a lot of good gifts. He can skate and he isn’t afraid to mix it up.”
Beattie, of Avondale, Ariz., had 20 goals and 40 assists for the Monarchs, and had been originally pencilled in to come to Maine this season. But when Swedish center and Notre Dame transfer Robin Bergman decided to return to Sweden after verbally committing to Maine, Beattie came a year early.
He was in and out of the lineup a year ago and finished with a goal and four assists in 17 games.
He has five goals and two assists in 22 games this season and is on one of the Bears’ two power-play units.
Last year provided him with a valuable education.
“It’s never fun to be out of the lineup,” said Beattie. “Then you get in for a couple of games and then you’re out. It’s tough on your confidence.
“But that’s what happens to freshmen. You’ve just to to stay mentally tough and keep working hard.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Beattie has been playing great.
“I used to have to raise my voice to Kyle a lot in practice last year but not this year. He has worked extremely hard and has a better understanding of his defensive responsibilities,” Whitehead said. “He’s more confident with the puck. He doesn’t turn it over. He makes plays. He has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat and playmaker.”
“My defense is still coming,” said the 19-year-old Beattie, who has very good hands and a deceptively hard shot according to his coaches. “You can always do better.”
Whitehead pointed out Beattie has an important role on the team in that he can supply the third line with a scoring threat or move up and fit right in on one of the top two lines, which he did Saturday when Joey Diamond was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Junior left wing Spencer Abbott said it is vital to have secondary scoring and “Kyle is a big part of that.”
Beattie said the fact he is on a power-play unit has boosted his self-esteem.
“It means a lot when the coaches have enough confidence in you to put you on a power play unit,” said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Beattie.
He added that the Midget AAA team he played on in Arizona when he was 16 has produced “seven or eight Division I players.”