ORONO, Maine — Center Ryan Cloonan said he “definitely developed a bond” with former University of Maine hockey coach Tim Whitehead and his coaching staff.
So when they were fired in April, he decided to decommit and not attend the school.
Cloonan, who is from East Longmeadow, Mass., would have come to Maine beginning in the fall of 2014 but he intends to look for another college after spending next season playing for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League.
“One of the main reasons I was coming to Maine was the coaching staff. I had everything I wanted. But when they were fired, it threw me off. I wasn’t too thrilled,” said Cloonan, who had six goals and 17 assists in 31 games for the Boston Junior Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League this past season.
Cloonan talked to new Maine coach Red Gendron but said he already was leaning toward decommitting.
“It’s nothing against him. Things happen. But it wasn’t what I wanted [to hear],” said Cloonan.
Under NCAA guidelines, Gendron can’t discuss the Cloonan situation because Cloonan hadn’t signed a National Letter of Intent. He had verbally committed.
Cloonan is the third player to decommit since last fall, joining forwards Dylan Gareau of Richmond, Ontario, and Nick Roberto of Wakefield, Mass. Gareau decommitted last fall and Roberto chose to go to Boston University in April.
Gendron did welcome eight incoming freshmen to campus on Sunday. They will spend a month taking two classes apiece, learning the campus and the area, and getting to know each other as well as coaches, professors and academic advisers.
They also will work out on and off the ice although just the strength and conditioning coach is allowed to work with them under NCAA guidelines. Members of the coaching staff are not allowed to be with them or monitor them.
It is the third year that freshmen have had a month-long regimen on campus before returning to their homes for a week and then coming back to begin school.
Gendron praised Whitehead and former assistants Bob Corkum and Dan Kerluke for implementing the program.
“It’s a great idea,” said Gendron. “These kids will get a leg up academically, a leg up walking around campus knowing where things are and getting to know each other and some folks on campus.
“It’ll make their transition much easier,” added Gendron.
Kerluke said it was very successful.
“It was great for developing camaraderie. They developed a bond,” said Kerluke, who formerly played at Maine. “I remember when I first came to Maine [as a player], I was nervous because I didn’t know anybody.”
The eight freshmen on campus are forwards Cam Brown, Blaine Byron, Brady Campbell, Zach Glienke, Josh Henke and Brian Morgan along with defensemen Daniel Renouf and Eric Schurhamer.
Recruited walk-on forward Tyler Gjurich of Hatfield, Pa., will not attend Maine but because he didn’t sign a National Letter of Intent, NCAA guidelines prevent Gendron from commenting on his reasons for not coming.
Gendron has talked to all of his freshmen since he landed the job and he also got to meet the parents who showed up on Sunday.
“They’re all great people. I’m really excited about them as people and that’s a [good] start,” he said.
Gendron said last week’s 11th annual Shawn Walsh Memorial Golf Tournament at the Martindale Country Club in Auburn was a success. The tournament raises money for the hockey program.
“It was a great turnout. We had 31 foursomes,” said Gendron. “I don’t know how much money Frank [tournament organizer Frank Jordan] raised but I’m sure it was a considerable amount and, more importantly, it was an opportunity for a bunch of people who love Maine hockey to get together and have some fun while also supporting the program.
“We made some new friends,” added Gendron.
He said among former Maine players on hand were Guy Perron, Mario Thyer, Matt Duffy, Travis Ramsey and new assistant coach Ben Guite.