ORONO, Maine — University of Maine redshirt freshman defenseman Billy Norman said hadn’t played forward in “four or five years.”
But when senior center Kyle Beattie (mild concussion) and sophomore right wing Andrew Cerretani (sprained ankle) were injured during Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Notre Dame in the Ice Breaker Tournament in Kansas City, Norman was informed by the coaching staff on Saturday morning that he would be centering a line for Saturday night’s consolation game against Army.
Norman was on defense Friday night.
Senior Adam Shemansky was the left wing on his line and Mark Anthoine was the right wing.
That line combined for a team-high 12 shots on goal and Anthoine scored Maine’s first goal although Norman wasn’t on the ice at that time.
Shemansky and Anthoine also play on the power play.
Maine won 4-3.
“I thought he played really well,” said Anthoine. “He was good at both ends of the ice. He created a lot of opportunities for me and [Shemansky].
“He has the poise of a forward. He’s an offensive-minded defenseman at heart. He has real good hands and he makes good decisions with the puck,” added Anthoine.
The center in Maine’s system has the bulk of the defensive responsibilities compared to the wingers. He usually stays high in the offensive zone so he can hustle back on defense when the opposing team breaks out. That limits odd-man rushes (three-on-twos, two-on-ones and breakaways).
In the defensive zone, the center often has net-front coverage.
“He did well. He was kind of a rover,” said Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell. “He did his job defensively and chipped in offensively. He was smooth coming up the ice with the puck. He was pretty poised.
“I’m not sure but he may have found a new position for himself,” added Cornell.
Despite not practicing at center, Norman embraced the challenge.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was mostly excited,” said Norman. “I didn’t feel I played as well as I could have the first night and I wanted to get back in the lineup and show what I could do.
“I thought it went pretty well. It was fun to go on offense. You get a chance to hold on to the puck more and attack. It was easy to play with Anthoine and Shemansky. They’re two good players. We had some good chances,” added Norman.
He said it didn’t take him long to adapt.
“I had been watching what the centers did. I know what every player does. I asked the coaches a few questions before the game and they told me what to do and where to be on the ice,” said Norman, a native of Stockholm, Sweden.
He went over a few plays with his linemates “mostly about faceoffs and where I should put the puck.”
He said the most challenging part was his offensive zone responsibilities and making sure “I got back quickly” to help out on defense.
Norman said he would look forward to playing center again if needed.
“He did a nice job,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
Morris gains first victory
Freshman goalie Matt Morris picked up his first varsity win against Army.
He made 21 saves of which 10 were of the Grade-A (high-percentage) variety.
Maine outshot Army 54-24.
Dan Sullivan, who made 33 saves in a terrific performance against Notre Dame, had a fever.
“Matt was a little nervous,” said Whitehead. “It was a tough game to play in. He wasn’t seeing the puck very much. But he made some good stops. He made a key save on a shorthanded breakaway after we tied it 2-2 and he made a big stop on the power play at the end.”
“He did a good job,” said sophomore center Stu Higgins.
“It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win and that’s all that matters at the end of the day,” said Morris.
“I was a little shaky. I wasn’t expecting to play,” said Morris who learned he was starting Saturday. “It wasn’t my best performance but it was good enough [to earn the victory]. I really owe the guys in front of me. They got the win.”
Morris, who made 13 saves on 14 shots in a 2-2 overtime exhibition tie with New Brunswick eight days ago, said it was a “huge relief” for him and the team to get that first win.
“I’m so glad it’s over. They say the first win is the hardest. Hopefully, we can build off this as a team,” he said.
Maine hosts St. Lawrence at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
St. Lawrence is 1-1 and is coming off an impressive series at Western Michigan in which the Saints won 4-3 in overtime and lost 3-2 the next night.
Western Michigan is the defending CCHA Tournament champs and an NCAA Tournament team.
SLU goalie Matt Weninger made 72 saves in the two games.