Former UMaine hockey assistant coach to lead American International against Black Bears this weekend
ORONO — Gary Wright wanted directions.
“What’s the exit number?” he asked. “Once we get there, it’ll probably come back to me.”
Wright replaced Ted Castle as an assistant hockey coach at the University of Maine in Maine’s first season in Division I (1979-80) and spent five seasons working with head coach Jack Semler.
Semler resigned after the 1983-84 season, and Wright went on to become the head coach at American International College in Springfield, Mass.
Wright will take exit 193 off I-95 when he returns to Alfond Arena with American International College for a two-game set 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
“I was pretty green when I took that job at Maine. I had coached at Rice High School (Vt.) right out of college. I had no previous college experience. But the players were very accepting and very coachable,” said Wright.
Wright accumulated a lot of fond memories.
“I remember the fan base and the enthusiasm they generated. It was interesting how the program gripped the state, not just the Bangor area,” said Wright who helped guide the Black Bears to an ECAC playoff berth in 1980-81.
He is looking forward to bringing his team to Orono.
“Maine is one of the more storied programs in college hockey. I’m really excited to come up, especially having coached there before. [Maine coach] Red Gendron and I go back quite a ways back to our days working at hockey schools together,” said Wright. “And it’s always nice to see some people you haven’t seen in a while.”
The Yellow Jackets, who play in Atlantic Hockey, are 3-10 and looking to snap a seven-game losing streak. They have allowed a nation-worst five goals per game, but their power play is eighth-best at 23.9 percent efficiency.
Maine is 7-6-1 including 7-1 at the Alfond Arena.
“They have a good team and if you don’t pay attention, they’ll hurt you,” said Gendron who considers Wright a long-time friend. “You can’t have a good power play unless you have three or four real good players. They have six forwards who are pretty dangerous and a defenseman [freshman Carson Grolla], who can really skate and jump up into the attack.”
“I’m sure their coach is excited to come back here, and they see this as a great opportunity to try to knock us off,” said Maine senior defenseman and captain Brice O’Connor.
Shore (6 goals, 7 assists), defenseman Ben Hutton (7 & 5), left wing Connor Leen (2 & 8) and center Cam Brown (2 & 8) have led Maine along with goalie Martin Ouellette (7-6-1, 2.14 goals-against average, .928 save percentage). American International College features linemates C Alexander MacMillan (8 & 6), LW Jon Puskar (5 & 8) and RW David Norris (2 & 10) along with Grolla (2 & 2) and goalie Hunter Leisner (1-4, 4.08, .889).