ORONO, Maine — Matt Mangene, a junior on this year’s University of Maine men’s hockey team, has signed an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
“He’d been pursued quite aggressively by several teams in the second half of the season,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “There were [about] a dozen teams.”
Junior forward Joey Diamond is also being pursued as a free agent, according to Whitehead.
“There’s been quite a bit of interest in Joe as well, but I’m confident he’ll be back with us next season,” said Whitehead.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Mangene, who played both defense and forward for the Black Bears, projects to play forward as a pro. Details of the contract were not available.
“I would like to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, and the fans for the last three years at Maine,” Mangene said in a press release from UMaine. “It has been the best three years of my life. I am very excited to start my pro career in the Philadelphia Flyers organization.”
He will report to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y., for the rest of the season, according to a news item on the Flyers’ website.
“He’ll finish the year with Adirondack, then have two years on his contract,” said Whitehead.
The Phantoms are fighting for a hotly contested playoff berth, sitting in ninth one point out of eighth.
The 23-year-old Mangene, an undrafted free agent from Miller Place, N.Y., scored 16 goals and had 18 assists in 40 games for the Bears this season.
In his three years at Maine, Mangene totaled 20 goals and 35 assists in 105 games. He also was assessed 110 penalty minutes over the three years.
Best known for his speed as a skater, Mangene also scored eight power-play goals for the Bears this season and led the Bears with two shorthanded goals.
Whitehead focused on two of Mangene’s attributes in particular that interested the pros.
“His skating catches everyone’s eye right away, but secondly is his competitiveness,” said Whitehead. “He never quits on a puck or a battle [for the puck].”
Whitehead also pointed out that Mangene’s speed has more than one dimension.
“Matty is a naturally good skater,” he said, noting his stride as a key. “Even better is his recovery. … He can bring it at high speed again and again. That’s a rare commodity in the game.”
Mangene’s game includes endurance and strength, said Whitehead, but his speed recovery “is a big advantage for him.”
The Bears advanced to the NCAA Tournament this year, where they lost to Minnesota-Duluth 5-2 in the first-round Northeast Regional game in Worcester, Mass., on March 24. Mangene scored the second of the Bears’ goals, giving Maine a short-lived 2-0 lead over UMD.
Maine finished with a 23-14-3 record and had a runner-up finish to Boston College in the Hockey East tournament before advancing to the NCAAs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
Mangene becomes the fifth Black Bear to sign a professional contract after the 2011-2012 season, joining Will O’Neill (Winnipeg), Spencer Abbott (Toronto), Brian Flynn (Buffalo) and Ryan Hegarty (Syracuse of the AHL).
“We have lost a lot of elite players over the last couple of years, starting with Gustav Nyquist,” said Whitehead. “The onus will be on the returning upperclassmen to step up their game.”
Whitehead is also confident about the Black Bears’ future.
“We have an excellent freshman class coming in,” he said. “We found a way [to move on] after losing Gustav early.
“That’s the lay of the land in college hockey now.”