ORONO, Maine — Bowdoinham’s Kyle Williams said he used to attend University of Maine men’s hockey games growing up.
But on Saturday night, he had an even better viewing perspective.
Williams was playing for the Black Bears as he and six other freshmen made their debuts at Alfond Arena.
Left wings Devin Shore and Conor Riley, center Steven Swavely, right wing Will Merchant and defenseman Ben Hutton played in both games over the weekend: Maine’s 2-1 loss to Quinnipiac on Saturday night and the 2-2 overtime exhibition tie with the University of New Brunswick on Sunday afternoon. Williams and goalie Matt Morris joined them in the lineup on Sunday.
Redshirt defenseman Billy Norman, who played in both exhibitions last year but not in a regular-season game, also played Sunday. Freshman forward Ryan Lomberg didn’t play because he is nursing a broken foot.
“After seeing eight or nine games every season, it was pretty cool to live it out there,” said Williams. “It was a dream come true for me. I wasn’t nervous until I got into the tunnel [before going onto the ice] and heard all the fans going. It was awesome.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said Shore, who had a goal and an assist against New Brunswick. “The crowd was pretty crazy. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced before. It helps when you’re playing in front of screaming fans.”
“It was something I’d always dreamed about — a bunch of people out there. It definitely helps the energy level,” said Riley. “I didn’t see a game when I was here [visiting]. I just saw it on YouTube videos and stuff like that.”
“I was a little nervous at first, but once the first shift is done, you get right into the game and you’re ready to go,” added Riley.
“It was unreal,” said Hutton. “I also never got to see a game, but it was like what I saw on YouTube. The fans are wild. They really helped you get through the game.”
Hutton, like his mates, admitted he had a case of the jitters.
“But after the first shift, I was fortunate to get a hit so that pretty much [took care of the nerves],” he added.
Swavely not only made his debut, he was on a line with older brother Jon, a right wing. Riley played on the left wing.
“It was awesome to play with [Jon] at this level,” said Steven Swavely, who scored Maine’s only goal against Quinnipiac off a faceoff win by his brother. “It was a dream come true. And our mother [Susan] came up to watch us. Our dad [Gary] had to work.”
Jon Swavely was hurt blocking a shot in the third period of Sunday’s game and had to be helped off the ice.
“[The puck] got him on the knee. He’s pretty sore today. He’s limping around. But he’s a tough kid. I think he’ll be all right,” said the younger Swavely, who was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Week for his goal.
The freshmen were praised by coach Tim Whitehead, who thought they all played well, and by their teammates for their performances over the weekend.
“They all stepped up and played real well,” said senior defenseman Nick Pryor.
“I had a good feeling about the freshman class. I thought they were going to do well and have an impact pretty quickly,” said junior goalie Dan Sullivan. “They’re young, but they’re very gifted. Some of them looked like second- and third-year players out there.”
Riley said the captain’s practices during the preseason were beneficial.
“They got us used to the pace so we were ready to go,” said Riley.
Norman, who hadn’t played in a game since Nov. 23 against the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 team, said it was “fun to get back out there.”
“I was pretty nervous at first, but I think I got better and better as the game went along. I was way more confident than I was last year. I was able to make some plays out there.”