UMass Lowell hockey coach Blaise MacDonald was marveling at a play he watched on video during the University of Maine’s 4-2 win over Vermont two weekends ago.
Maine’s Gustav Nyquist came into the offensive zone, stopped and flipped the puck in the air to Brian Flynn.
Flynn was in front of Nyquist, and Nyquist’s pass dropped from approximately 15 feet in the air right into the path of Flynn, who swatted it when it was chest-high only to have Vermont goalie Rob Madore make a quality save on it.
“That was such a cool play … and calculated,” said MacDonald. “It was a terrific play to watch. Flynn was smart enough to go to the net, and then to see somebody make a pass like that on a rush tells you (Nyquist) has a low panic threshold and a lot of confidence in his game.
“(Nyquist) has such a phenomenal skill level and he plays the game with integrity and honesty. He’e very engaged with his teammates.”
There aren’t many players at any level of hockey who would have the creativity to try a pass like that and make such a pinpoint pass.
The hand-eye coordination of both Nyquist and Flynn is impressive.
Had Flynn put the puck in the net, I’m sure it would have been a strong candidate to earn video time on ESPN or Hockey Night in Canada.
Nyquist will probably be playing his last two games at Alfond Arena this weekend when the Black Bears host the nation’s No. 4-ranked Merrimack College Warriors.
He was a fourth-round draft choice of Detroit in 2008 and is expected to sign with the Red Wings in the offseason.
He has provided the Alfond Arena with a lot of thrills in his three seasons.
The Black Bear program has been blessed with a catalog full of talented players, but when it comes to pure passing skills and creativity, Nyquist will have to be among the top five.
Of course, the leader in those categories is Paul Kariya, who may have been the greatest college player of all time. He is still the only freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award.
Nyquist was one of three Hobey finalists a year ago as a sophomore.
Nyquist, like Kariya, has an accelerated thought process. He thinks one pass ahead.
He isn’t afraid to try something like that airborne pass to Flynn.
Nyquist and Kariya are the kind of players who are worth the price of admission.
They are dynamic. They cut on a dime and spin away from checkers.
They epitomize hockey’s beauty.
Nyquist isn’t as explosive or as slippery as Kariya was. But who is?
Kariya, currently sitting out the season due to postconcussion syndrome, has 402 goals and 989 points in 989 career NHL games.
As good as they are, Nyquist and Kariya are always looking to improve.
And they have been successful despite being marked men.
Nyquist, with his nine goals and an assist in his last six games, is doing what he can to lead the team to its first NCAA Tournament berth in four years.
The Black Bears will probably have to win the Hockey East Tournament to do so, but if Dan Sullivan can provide the consistent goaltending he did in the back-to-back shutout wins over UMass Lowell last weekend, it is a distinct possibility.
Nyquist and the five seniors (Josh Van Dyk, Jeff Dimmen, Mike Banwell, Tanner House and Robby Dee) have been resilient and deserve an opportunity to play in the NCAA tourney.
Their performance down the stretch will be crucial and pivotal.