ORONO, Maine — Freshman left winger Pietro Antonelli has left the University of Maine men’s hockey program for personal reasons, according to Maine head coach Tim Whitehead.
Antonelli witnessed the death of his brother Nicholas, who was struck by a car right before Antonelli was to leave for preseason dry-land training at Maine.
Antonelli stayed for the first semester but will return home and play junior hockey before returning to Maine next fall, according to Whitehead.
“It’s the right move for him to be home with his family as they work through this extremely difficult time,” said Whitehead. “It has been very, very tough for him to be away. Halfway through the semester, everyone realized it was the right move for him to get home.”
Antonelli didn’t play in any regular-season games but played in both exhibition games, collecting a goal in a 7-3 win over defending Canadian collegiate champions New Brunswick on Oct. 2. He didn’t register a point in the 6-4 triumph over the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team on Nov. 23.
Because he only played in the exhibition games, he should have a full four years of eligibility when he returns.
The 200-pound Antonelli was Maine’s only forward over 190 pounds and Whitehead feels he has a bright future.
“I love the way he plays,” said Whitehead. “He’s the exact ingredient we need: a big, physical forward who can score goals. He’ll be a great addition next year.”
Whitehead said there won’t be an academic problem when he returns “because he’s a very good student and is in good academic standing.”
He said hockey is Antonelli’s passion and he’ll get to play junior hockey closer to his family and their home in Blainville, Quebec.
The 19-year-old Antonelli had 29 goals and 37 assists in 48 games for Stanstead College (Quebec) last season and had seven game-winning goals. He also played football, rugby, golf and soccer.
If UMaine’s game against New Hampshire at Boston’s Fenway Park on Jan. 7 falls victim to weather, it will be rescheduled for the next day, according to Pete Souris, director of media relations for Hockey East.
Massachusetts and Vermont will play the first game beginning at 4 p.m. followed by the Maine-New Hampshire game.
Souris said the time of the makeup games won’t be known because of the time it could take to prepare the ice surface.
“If we get a blizzard, they will need time to remove the snow,” said Souris.
He said another condition that could force a postponement would be a driving rainstorm.
Souris said warm temperatures wouldn’t force a postponement unless it was unusually warm for that time of year.
He also said the other men’s game between Northeastern and Boston College, scheduled for Jan. 14, would be pushed back a day in case of bad weather, but the women’s game on Jan. 10 between Providence and ECAC member Dartmouth would not be made up.
The first Fenway game involving Hockey East teams was held two years ago and that was sold out. Boston University beat Boston College 3-2.
Souris said the tickets for Jan. 7 doubleheader are all accounted for, but Maine associate athletic director Joe Roberts said there are some tickets still available through the university’s athletic ticket office.
The ticket office has limited holiday hours. It will be closed on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.
But those wishing to purchase tickets can still do so by calling 581-BEAR (2327).