ORONO, Maine —The University of Maine men’s hockey team will start the season without several of its forwards due to a rash of injuries and illnesses, according to Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Sophomore right wing-center John Parker, one of the team’s fastest skaters, could be lost for the season after having surgery to repair a broken foot; highly touted freshman center Devin Shore, a second-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars (61st overall) in June, is recovering from mononucleosis; freshman winger Ryan Lomberg will be sidelined for at least a month after having foot surgery; and sophomore right wing Andrew Cerretani suffered a sprained ankle earlier this week and is being evaluated.
The injuries sustained by Parker and Lomberg were not hockey related, according to Whitehead. Cerretani sustained his injury during the team’s dry-land training, which is under way with the team’s opener looming on Saturday, Oct. 6 against Quinnipiac.
Whitehead said freshman defenseman Conor Riley is being moved up to forward and redshirt freshman defenseman Billy Norman may also be moved up front.
Sophomore defenseman Jake Rutt, who saw a little duty as a forward last season, and freshman Kyle Williams are other options, according to Whitehead.
Senior defensemen Mike Cornell and Nick Pryor and junior Brice O’Connor have all seen action at forward in their careers.
“We’re going to look at our players with open eyes,” said Whitehead. “We’re going to put our best players on the ice to start the season and if it means moving defensemen up to forward, so be it.
“We’ve done that in the past and had success with it,” he added. “The last couple of years we’ve shown dramatic improvement in our ability to adapt in these kinds of situations.”
Parker had three goals and four assists in 34 games last season but emerged as an effective checking line forward and penalty-killer.
“He’s so valuable. He is such an elite-level skater and he’s a great defender,” said Whitehead. Parker earned recognition for his role in the 5-3 win over Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals. After Hobey Baker Award finalist and leading scorer Spencer Abbott suffered a concussion in the second period, Parker was called upon to double-shift in the third period as he took Abbott’s spot on the left wing with Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond while also skating with his linemates Adam Shemansky and Kyle Beattie.
“It doesn’t look good for him playing this year but you never know,” said Whitehead.
Parker will be in some kind of cast for at least 13 weeks.
If Parker doesn’t return, he could become a medical redshirt and retain three years of eligibility.
Lomberg led Muskegon of the United States Hockey League in scoring as a rookie last year (22 goals, 18 assists in 52 games) and Shore was the leading scorer for Whitby of the Ontario Junior Hockey League with 29 & 29 in 41 games, and he was chosen the league’s rookie of the year. He also amassed 32 points in 23 playoff games.
Cerretani appeared in 24 games a year ago and had one goal.
Whitehead said the players returned to school in “fabulous shape” and they will continue their fitness testing this weekend.
“The most pleasant surprise has been the seniors. A lot of time, it’s difficult for seniors to improve [dramatically] but our seniors have taken a big jump. They’ve added muscle and dropped body fat,” said Whitehead. “And I was impressed with our freshmen. None of them came unprepared.”
For the second straight year, the freshmen each spent three and a half weeks working out on campus and taking two courses in August.
The Black Bears will have a busy schedule as they prepare for their opener. They will complete their fitness testing this weekend; they will play a charity softball game called Blue On Blue against the Orono Police and Fire Department on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. at Kessock Field; they will climb Mount Katahdin Sept. 22-23 and they will camp out at Camp Roosevelt the following weekend.