Whitewater rafting helps UMaine men’s hockey team bond

Posted Sept. 28, 2011, at 6:13 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 29, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

Every year, University of Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead schedules a September trip for his players so they can get to know each other.

It is especially useful for the new players.

The previous two seasons, the Black Bears climbed Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park.

Earlier this month, the team went whitewater rafting down the Kennebec River.

Millinocket native Josh MacDonald, who is the director of hockey operations, heads up the excursion.

The players enjoyed their whitewater rafting trip.

“Change is always good,” said Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill. “It’s good to hang out with each other. When you’re all sleeping under one roof at the same campfire, it brings you closer together.”

O’Neill had never been whitewater rafting.

“It was fun. There were some huge waves,” said O’Neill. “At some points, you felt like you were hitting a big rock. We had to work (paddle) together. It was good for the freshmen to get out with us.”

“We had some good bonding,” said freshman forward Andrew Cerretani, another first-timer when it comes to whitewater rafting.. “It was a good experience for the whole team. And we had nice weather.”

“When you saw the rapids, your adrenaline started going,” said junior defenseman Matt Mangene, who had gone rafting earlier in the summer. “It was great. We had Class V rapids.”

“I was kind of nervous because I had never done it before,” said sophomore goalie Martin Ouellette. “But we had a lot of fun. I just didn’t want to fall into the water. There were a lot of big waves.”

There were a few players who fell out of the boats, and MacDonald also took a spill, according to the players.

“It was pretty tough. There was a lot of action out on the river. But it was fun,” said senior left winger Theo Andersson, another first-time rafter.

“This was a whole lot more fun than climbing Mount Katahdin,” said Mangene.

“Hands down (better),” said junior left wing Adam Shemansky.

“I didn’t like Mount Katahdin at all last year,” said Ouellette.

The players weren’t as tired or sore as they were after the Mount Katahdin climb.

However, Whitehead said the team will go back to climbing Mount Katahdin next September.

“Josh and I are going to alternate them,” said Whitehead.

The Maine coach said one of the neat aspects of climbing Mount Katahdin and whitewater rafting is it gives the players an appreciation of the state of Maine and the environment.

MAINE IN ICE BREAKER

For the third time since 2001, Maine will participate in the Ice Breaker Tournament.

Maine, Notre Dame, Army and the University of Nebraska-Omaha will participate in the 16th annual tournament, which will be held Oct. 12-13, 2012, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The matchups will be predetermined, but they haven’t been announced yet. It isn’t a championship-format event.

The Ice Breaker Tournament is an exempted tournament. The two games will count on the teams’ records, but they won’t count toward the 34 games they are allowed to play under NCAA guidelines. The teams can play 36 games, counting the Ice Breaker games.

Teams are allowed to do that once every four years.

“It’s great to get back in the Ice Breaker,” said Whitehead, whose Black Bears hosted it in 2001 and played in the 2005 tourney at Colorado College. “We really appreciate being the Hockey East representative in it. Our fans travel well, so, hopefully, we’ll get a good contingent out there.”

Whitehead said the field of teams is formidable and it will provide a good early-season challenge for his Black Bears.

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