ORONO, Maine — Junior right wing Joey Diamond, whose 25 goals led the University of Maine men’s hockey team and was tied for fifth-best in the country, said he plans to return for his senior year.
He was named Wednesday as one of the Black Bear tri-captains for next season.
Diamond finished with 22 assists to go with his 25 goals in 37 games and his 11 power-play goals tied him atop national statistics.
He also led the team in penalty minutes with 117, but his penalty minutes were greatly reduced over the second half of the season.
In the wake of junior right wing Matt Mangene’s decision to pass up his senior year and sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, there was speculation that Diamond would follow suit.
“[Returning to Maine] is obviously the plan. I haven’t had any offers. I signed on for four years,” said Diamond, who will be joined by defenseman Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec as tri-captains.
He noted that linemates Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn returned for their senior years and it “worked out [nicely] for them.”
Abbott led the nation in scoring with 62 points and was a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist and a first team All-American. He was the Hockey East Player of the Year and was an All-Hockey East First Team member.
Flynn was also an All-Hockey East first team choice after notching a career-high 48 points.
Abbott signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Flynn signed with the Buffalo Sabres. Both are currently playing in the American Hockey League.
The hard-nosed Diamond, a second team All-Hockey East choice this past season, said he would like to follow in their footsteps by having a productive senior year and signing a pro contract after next season.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Diamond, who is also known for his exceptional play along the boards and in high traffic areas, was the league’s leading goal scorer in conference games with 20 in 27 games and he finished second in points behind Abbott with 37.
He said he wasn’t surprised he didn’t receive any offers.
“I didn’t really think about it, to tell you the truth,” said Diamond, whose primary offseason focus will be on improving his skating.
He said being named a tri-captain is a big deal to him.
“I wanted to be a captain someday,” said Diamond, who said he is looking forward to working with Cornell and Nemec and feels they were very good choices.
He also said he is excited about next season and is confident they’ll have a good year.
He said the freshmen made an impressive impact and he understands there’s a very good incoming class.
“It’s going to be an interesting year,” he said.
“We’re thrilled to have Joey back,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He’s one of the top players in our conference and that makes him one of the top returning players in the country. He certainly put up a tremendous amount of points. There haven’t been a lot of players who have scored 20 goals in our league [games]. From Thanksgiving on, he played with more discipline and he controlled his emotions. He was a big part of our progress. He’ll get a ton of ice time next season and will be even more of a go-to guy for our team next season.”
Diamond has 45 goals and 35 assists in 102 career games.
Cornell, who was an assistant captain this season, has played in 90 games with two goals and 17 assists, and Nemec has had 3 & 10 in 99 games.
Nemec teamed with senior Ryan Hegarty to form Maine’s top shutdown defense tandem.
The captains were selected in a vote of the players and coaches.
“All three of them gained a lot of very valuable experience this past season and we feel they’re quite prepared to take the reins,” said Whitehead. “Each one brings a unique personality to the table.”
Maine went 23-14-3 this season and earned its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2006-2007 season. The Black Bears went 20-8-2 after a 3-6-1 start.
Whitehead said Mangene’s scholarship money will “most likely be sprinkled among our upperclassmen [who aren’t on full scholarships], our seniors in particular.”
“Several of them deserve to be upgraded and we’d love to help their families out.”
He did say that could change if an elite player becomes available.
“We’re always on the lookout for elite players,” said Whitehead. “If we see one, yes [we’ll offer him the scholarship]. But, if not, we’ll sprinkle it among the upperclassmen.”
He said Mangene’s decision to depart “leaves a big hole for us,” but he said it presents an opportunity for other players to become “the next Mangene who elevates his game and becomes an impact player.”
Maine will lose four of its top five scorers, but Whitehead said the Bears have a “great recruiting class” and “they should be able to help out right away. They’ll improve our size and speed. They’ll be thrown right into the fire.”