Frank Doyle had the best of both worlds this season.
The former University of Maine goaltender led his Sheffield Steelers to the Elite Ice Hockey League tournament championship in Great Britain — and he worked toward getting his master’s degree in business at Sheffield University.
It was his first season in the Elite League after spending three seasons with Fassa in the Italian League.
“It was a good change for us,” said Doyle, who is married to the former Lindsey Haskell of Bar Harbor. They have a 14-month-old daughter, Hadley. “Sheffield is a great sports city and there is no language barrier. I have always wanted to get my MBA [Masters in Business Administration]. But I had to get used to driving on the other side of the road.”
Doyle jumped at the chance to play for Sheffield because the team offered a nice education package to go with his salary. He said Sheffield University is a top-notch school and he is finishing up his first year. He will go one more year to earn his degree.
Doyle, 33, played in 64 regular-season games this season and posted a 2.66 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. His GAA was third-lowest in the league. He logged a league-high 3,852 minutes and had a 38-23-3 record.
In the playoffs, Sheffield won a two-game, total-goals series against Coventry before going to the Elite League equivalent of the “Frozen Four” in Nottingham.
Doyle’s Steelers beat Braehead 3-2 in the semifinals before upsetting league regular-season champ Belfast 3-2 in overtime in the title game. Former Black Bears sniper Colin Shield scored one of Belfast’s goals.
Belfast lost only six games during the regular season.
“Colin’s a really good player. He shoots from everywhere,” said Doyle.
Shields had 22 goals and 39 assists in 59 games and was 22nd in the league in scoring. Shields and Doyle were teammates for both of Doyle’s years at Maine (2002-04).
He said he was surprised how good the league is and said his team averaged approximately 5,000 fans per game in the 8,500-seat Sheffield Arena. He said several of the arenas in the 10-team league have lively, boisterous fans.
Doyle said every team in the league had 10 or 11 imported players from around the world. Many other European leagues limit the number of foreign players on each roster.
Doyle felt he had a solid season, but was quick to point out that he had a good team around him, unlike in Italy.
“It was different because I was used to seeing a lot of shots in Italy. I’d go six or seven minutes without seeing a shot with Sheffield,” he said.
Doyle felt fortunate he was able to stay healthy throughout the season.
“I’ve never played 68 games [including playoffs] in a season before,” said Doyle.
At Maine, the native of Guelph, Ontario, compiled a 1.96 GAA and a .919 save percentage in his two seasons. He shared the goaltending with current Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard and compiled a 29-8-5 record.
Doyle and Howard each posted five shutouts during the 2003-04 season when Maine reached the NCAA final, where it lost to Denver 1-0 in Boston.
He said he still keeps tabs on the Black Bears and communicates regularly with some of his former Maine teammates.
Doyle played in 166 American Hockey League games with Albany, Lowell, Worcester and Utah and also played in the ECHL with Idaho, Charlotte and Alaska. He also spent a year in Germany with Cologne.
Doyle and family will spend the summer in Bar Harbor after he finishes his semester.
He has one more year remaining on his contract with Sheffield.