ORONO, Maine — The 2011-2012 season was a learning year for University of Maine freshman defenseman Jake Rutt of Scarborough.
He appeared in 13 games and produced four assists.
With the loss of Will O’Neill and Ryan Hegarty to graduation, Rutt was given his chance to step in and he has been one of the handful of bright spots on this year’s 2-9-1 team.
“He has really emerged for us as a strong, two-way defenseman,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He has progressed very well on and off the ice.
“He is physical, mobile and has a strong shot. He is taking pride in his defensive game. I’m really excited about his progress,” added Whitehead.
Rutt has played in 11 of Maine’s 12 games and scored his first career goal in a 2-2 overtime tie with Massachusetts on Nov. 16. He doesn’t have any assists yet and has 19 shots on goal.
In addition to his regular shift, he also sees duty on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
“I feel like I’m starting to get used to the speed and everything,” said Rutt. “I’ve been getting some time penalty-killing and on the power play. It really helps when your coach has confidence in you.
“The team is not doing so hot and we need someone to step up. I’m trying to fill those shoes,” added Rutt.
He said even though he didn’t play much a year ago, he still viewed it as a positive experience.
“I wasn’t mad about not playing. (Coach Whitehead) had his reasons and he’s a very smart guy. He was a big help to me and I was a sponge (learning from him). He told me what I needed to work on and it has really paid dividends. I feel like I’m more of an impact player now,” said Rutt.
Rutt explained that Whitehead wanted him to develop his feet (quickness), improve his leg strength and to become a student of the game.
“He told me about managing the puck and keeping things simple … when to make plays and when plays are there (to make),” added Rutt.
“He’s still learning when to jump into the offense and when to play more conservatively,” explained Whitehead. “That takes time. It comes with experience. He didn’t get a lot of ice time as a freshman.”
Whitehead said Rutt worked extremely hard in the offseason and it has been instrumental in his improvement.
“He added five to 10 pounds of muscle without increasing his weight,” said Whitehead. “He really elevated his training and he’s very fit now which has helped him earn more ice time. He doesn’t get tired so he can log more ice time. He’s stronger and his legs are stronger and it has paid off.”
Rutt was pleased about scoring his first goal.
“It felt good to get the monkey off my back,” said the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rutt. “Hopefully, the next few will come a little bit quicker.”
“He has been playing well for us,” said senior defenseman and tri-captain Mark Nemec, Rutt’s defense partner. “You have to hold him back (from jumping into the offense) a little bit. He’s pretty eager. He likes to make a difference. But he’s been good. We need him.”
Whitehead said Rutt is learning how to “read rushes better.
“We knows when to pressure and when to contain. He is also working on defending small, quick guys. That can be challenging,” said Whitehead. “He’s learning how to keep his head on a swivel and protect the front of the net. He’s becoming more consistent.”
Diamond sets penalty mark
Black Bears senior right wing Joey Diamond has become the school’s most penalized player.
Diamond’s 41 penalty minutes this season give him 361 for his career, two more than defenseman Prestin Ryan (2001-04).
“I’m not thinking about it too much,” said Diamond. “It comes with the territory and the way that I play. I kind of walk the line a little bit.”
He said he doesn’t feel he has taken any “crazy penalties” this season.
He has taken just one five-minute major, a hitting-from-behind call, in the season-opening 2-1 loss to Quinnipiac but he hasn’t taken one since.
He also earned a game misconduct for that hit.