ORONO, Maine — University of Maine junior left wing Connor Leen is having a breakout season.
And one of the keys has been his health.
Leen has battled Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder, since he arrived at Maine and it sidelined him for the final 10 games of last season.
He has played in all but one of Maine’s 18 games this season and is the team’s second-leading scorer with a single season-best 16 points on three goals and 13 assists. His 13 assists and 16 points are second only to linemate Devin Shore (8-14-22). Shore was named the Hockey East player of the month Thursday.
Leen, who has points in five of his last six games (1 & 7), is hoping to continue his impressive season at 7 p.m. Friday when the 10-6-2 Black Bears visit Hamden, Conn., to play the nation’s eighth-ranked Quinnipiac University Bobcats, 14-3-4 and NCAA finalists a year ago.
“We know their rink can be pretty hostile,” Leen said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us but we’re looking forward to getting there and showing them what we can do.”
Leen has been pleased with his season to date but is quick to point out that “individual success comes with team success. I’ve been focusing on generating offense and being very responsible in the defensive zone. You have to take care of the defensive zone first.”
He credits linemates Shore and sophomore Steven Swavely with their roles in his success.
“We’ve done a pretty good job generating offense. Devin and I played together last year and there is a chemistry there and Steven has added a very good element with his size and his heady play as well as Devin’s. I’ve missed some chances I’d love to have back but, overall, I think we’re all clicking pretty well,” said Leen.
He said he closely monitors his disease and has started a new medication, Remicade.
“I felt good in the beginning of last season but, all of a sudden, it hit me out of nowhere. I switched medications and that has definitely helped me,” he said. “I know my body pretty well now so I seem to have it under control. I pay attention to my diet and I stay on top of my medication.”
“Connor’s a heck of a hockey player,” said Maine coach Red Gendron. “He has a huge heart and plays his tail off every single day. He’s the beneficiary of playing on a pretty good line but he has earned that right and he has added to the value of that line.”
Junior center Stu Higgins said you would never know Leen is battling a disease by the way he plays.
“He’s a tough kid. He battles. He never complains. Everybody is really happy for him. He deserves [his success],” said Higgins.
Defenseman Ben Hutton is Maine’s third-leading scorer (7 & 7) and is tied for the lead for goals among defensemen in the country. Swavely has 7 & 6. Goalie Martin Ouellette has the nation’s seventh-best goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.937).
Quinnipiac has the nation’s top-scoring freshman in left wing Sam Anas (13 & 13) and he is on a line with the Jones twins, seniors Kellen (10 & 15) and Connor (7 & 16). They comprise one of just three lines in the country that has three 20-point scorers.
Sophomore Michael Garteig has the nation’s sixth-best GAA (1.79).