University of Maine junior right winger Gustav Nyquist has always been an accomplished playmaker.
In fact, he and the University of Wisconsin’s Derek Stepan led the nation in assists with 42 apiece a year ago. Nyquist averaged 1.08 assists per game which was second in the country behind UMass’ James Marcou (1.11).
He also scored 19 goals and led the nation in points with 61 en route to being a Hobey Baker Hat Trick (final three) finalist.
After going nine games without a goal, he has erupted for seven goals in his last four games, which is easily the best four-game stretch of his career.
His previous high for a four-game stretch was four goals.
“My line has been clicking. They’ve been setting me up with some good passes,” said Nyquist referring to senior center Tanner House and junior left wing Brian Flynn. “And I’m not hitting posts any more.”
That line has combined for eight goals and eight assists in the last four games.
“I’m shooting more and the biggest thing is I’ve been getting to the net more. I’ve had four or five rebound goals,” Nyquist said. “And I have to keep doing that. I’ve got to keep driving to the net. If I can do that consistently, hopefully I’ll get some more rebound goals.”
His last goal came into an empty net in the 4-2 win over Vermont Saturday that snapped a six-game winless streak (0-4-2).
“I buried it as hard as I could. When I was coming down the ice, I was thinking about the (miss) at UNH. It wasn’t the same situation but it was nice to get an empty-netter,” said Nyquist.
He was referring to his shot that hit the inside of the post with 37 seconds left in the 5-4 loss to UNH. UNH goalie Matt Di Girolamo had raced out to try to beat him to the puck but missed the pokecheck and caught Nyquist’s skate with his stick.
Nyquist shot while stumbling to the ice and hit the inside of the near post. UNH’s Paul Thompson scored the winner 21 seconds later.
“Gustav is playing great hockey now,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He has scored quite a few goals in and around the net because he’s getting to the net more consistently. He’s stopping at the net front and burying rebounds. He has also been using his speed on the rush (to create chances).”
Nyquist has enjoyed his recent goal-scoring streak, saying, “It’s always fun to score goals.
“But it doesn’t matter to me who scores as long as we win,” added Nyquist.
Nyquist set a school record by scoring just six seconds after the opening faceoff in the win over Vermont.
“It’s pretty cool to have a record but (Flynn) has a bigger one with five goals and seven points in a game,” said Nyquist, referring to Flynn’s five goals and two assists in an 8-4 win over UMass Lowell last season.
The seven points in a game set the school record and the five goals tied Flynn with Gary Conn and Jay Mazur.
Nyquist leads the team in scoring with 36 points on 13 goals and 23 assists and he is hoping he can help lead the team to a strong stretch run.
Maine is 12-10-6 overall, 9-8-4 in Hockey East and in fifth place with six regular season games remaining.
“I’m still very convinced this team can do something special this year,” said Nyquist. “I know some people have lost hope in us. But we’re like a family and I really believe we have a great team. Our record doesn’t show it.
“We’re looking to get on a run going into the playoffs,” he added. “We’ll see if that leads us to a home ice berth (for the Hockey East quarterfinals). If not, it doesn’t matter because we know we can win anywhere.”
Maine visits last place UMass Lowell on Friday and Saturday night, but Nyquist expects a difficult battle.
“It’s so tight in Hockey East. It’s crazy how it gets like that every year. You seem to be in close games all the time,” said Nyquist. “But that makes the games more fun. I loving being in tight games. The pressure is on you. You always want to step up and help the team win.”
Black Bear pair likely out for season
Whitehead said sophomore center Klas Leidermark (knee) and redshirt freshman center Kelen Corkum (hip) probably won’t return this season and winger Adam Shemansky’s return is doubtful. Shermansky is suffering from a concussion.
Shemansky had two goals and three assists in 15 games; Leidermark had a goal and an assist in 18 games and Corkum hadn’t scored in five games.
Defenseman/winger Nick Pryor (concussion), who hasn’t played since Dec. 29, could return this weekend according to Whitehead.
He said the goaltending battle is “wide open” between sophomore Shawn Sirman, who made 17 saves in Saturday’s win, and freshmen Martin Ouellette and Dan Sullivan. All three played in Friday night’s loss. Sullivan returned after being sidelined by a knee injury since Jan. 14.
“We’ve got to protect our goalies better, we’ve got to box out better in front of our net and eliminate second shots,” Whitehead said.