PORTLAND, Maine — It will be a homecoming of sorts for three University of Maine men’s hockey players Friday night.
Junior left wing Mark Anthoine from Lewiston, sophomore defenseman Jake Rutt from Scarborough and freshman defenseman Kyle Williams of Bowdoinham have played plenty of hockey at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center throughout their careers, and they will return there at 7 p.m. Friday when the Black Bears face Mercyhurst College (Pa.).
The two teams will play in Orono at 7 p.m. Saturday, and Maine will be looking for its first Alfond win of the season (0-6-2).
On Friday night, Maine, 4-11-2, will try to build on its first two-game winning streak of the season in a venue where it is unbeaten in its last 14 games (11-0-3). Maine is 19-6-3 all-time at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
The Lakers from Mercyhurst are 8-6-1.
“I played there quite a bit. It’s pretty exciting,” said Williams. “There will be a big fan group of family and friends there. Portland is closer to a lot more people that I know. I can’t wait.”
Rutt said playing at the civic center will remind him of his high school days.
“It will be pretty motivating to see all the fans come out because a lot of them are just casual fans, not just students,” he said. “So we’ll see a lot of families come out and they’re paying good money to watch us play. It’s really good to see. We’re really happy to play in front of them.”
Anthoine added, “It’s a nice rink to play in, and it’s in a good location.”
But the Black Bears won’t lose sight of the task at hand.
Following the Mercyhurst series, the Bears will play 17 Hockey East games, and they are currently in last place.
But the Florida College Classic championship last weekend gave them a badly needed shot of confidence and a blueprint for success.
“We have to stick with how we played down there,” said Rutt. “We can’t play a pretty style of hockey, we’ve got to play with our blood, sweat and tears. We’ve got to get in the corners and win the battles in the trenches.”
“It’s a lot easier to stay on a roll than it is get on a roll,” said Williams. “We got on one last week and we want to stay on a roll and play as well as we did last weekend.”
Williams has played both forward and defense but will be back on the blue line this weekend.
“I’m a lot more comfortable on defense. That’s where I was recruited to play and where I played the last five years,” said Williams. “I like it a lot better but like I’ve said before, I’ll play wherever coach (Tim Whitehead) needs me to play.”
Anthoine said the mental aspect of the game is vital to success and the confidence they received from the Florida tournament could prove to be invaluable.
“We feel we can play with some of the best teams in the country now,” he said. “We’re making plays, everyone has bought into the system and the goaltending has been great. Everything is going pretty well.
“This will be a big test for us. Mercyhurst is a good team. Hopefully, we can keep the ball rolling,” added Anthoine.
The Black Bears had a busy Thursday that included practice at the CCCC, a clinic and a Skate with the Bears at the Family Ice Center in Falmouth and dinner at the Rutt family home.
“My dad loves to cook, my mom just the same,” said Rutt.