The University of Maine men’s hockey team has already had an adventure involving the Florida College Classic.
And they haven’t even reached Estero, Fla., yet.
Originally, the ninth-ranked Black Bears were scheduled to practice Sunday night and early Monday morning in Orono before leaving for Boston and their 2:30 p.m. flight on Monday. They had a scheduled practice at Germain Arena in Estero at 10 p.m. Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s 7:35 p.m. game against 10-5-3 Miami of Ohio, the nation’s sixth-ranked team.
St. Cloud State, 5-11-2, opens the tournament against 4-6-1 Cornell at 4:05 p.m.
The Bears did practice Sunday night at Alfond Arena, but due to the blizzard, Maine coach Tim Whitehead canceled the Monday morning practice to give them more time to reach Logan Airport. They left at 6:30 a.m. instead of 8:30.
“When we left Orono, the flight was still on. But by the time we reached Bangor, they told us it had been canceled,” explained Maine sports information director and assistant athletic director Laura Reed.
The team bus continued south and UMaine obtained ice time at a rink in Exeter, N.H., for a late-afternoon practice.
“It took us six hours just to get out of the state,” said Reed.
Whitehead explained they were in a precarious position.
“There were no commercial flights for a group of 30 leaving any eastern city until Jan. 1,” explained Whitehead. “One plan had us busing to North Carolina, flying from Charlotte to Tallahassee and then busing from Tallahassee to Estero. We would have had to reach Charlotte by 9 a.m. Tuesday. There’s no way we could have done that.
“But Cindy Hardy at Bangor Travel and (interim athletic director) Steve Abbott really stepped up for us. They got us a charter through Air Planning that will leave from Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday,” said Whitehead. “We’re very grateful to them.”
Air Planning LLC is an aircraft charter company based in Salem, N.H.
“They’re the company our football team charters through,” explained Whitehead.
The Maine team spent Monday night in Portsmouth, N.H.
Seven players were unable to join the team in Orono and at least one won’t be able to make it to Florida.
“Klas Leidermark had his flight from Sweden canceled, and they told him he couldn’t get another flight to the States until Jan. 1,” said Whitehead. “Robby Dee and Carlos Amestoy were stuck in Detroit, and Josh Van Dyk and Spencer Abbott were stuck in Buffalo. But all four got flights re-directed to Florida. Shawn Sirman has made it to Boston and will join us, and Joey Diamond is trying to take the last train from New York City to Boston. But his train has been delayed. If he got to Boston, we would send someone down to pick him up. But I don’t know if he’ll be able to make it.”
“Every year, something happens with this tournament,” said senior center and captain Tanner House. “We’re used to it. We just roll with the punches. Everyone is always excited to get down to Florida. For the most part, everything has worked out at the end. By game time, everybody is ready.”
“The other teams are in the same boat as well. We’re all coming off break,” added House.
“I don’t think Shawn Sirman ever got his pads at last year’s tournament,” said sophomore defenseman-forward Mike Cornell. “You have to expect that this time of year.”
Whitehead said he isn’t worried some of the players couldn’t practice with the team the previous two days.
“Most of them are veterans,” said Whitehead.
He put things into perspective.
“It’s crazy. Mother Nature took over,” said Whitehead. “You’ve just got to adapt. But we’re fine with that.”
Whitehead mulling lineups
Whitehead has a variety of contingency plans based on the availability of players.
Junior defenseman Will O’Neill will be back after missing eight games with a knee injury.
And Jeff Dimmen has skated for three days after sitting out five games with an ankle injury. But he is still listed as questionable by Whitehead.
Whitehead is contemplating putting defensemen Mike Banwell and Cornell on wings flanking sophomore center Matt Mangene, who has also seen a little duty on defense.
“That would be a tough line to play against. If I was a forward, I wouldn’t want to play against that line,” said Whitehead.
He intends to continue his routine of having his top six forwards on his top two lines with House centering one line and Dee centering the other.
Diamond is one of the top six, so his spot would have to be filled if he doesn’t make it.
Diamond, Brian Flynn, Gustav Nyquist and Spencer Abbott are the wings.
Whitehead has had a variety of combinations on the third and fourth lines but feels Theo Andersson and Kyle Beattie are likely to be in the lineup.
“We need Theo as a penalty-killer and Kyle for our second power-play unit,” said Whitehead.
He added that he could also have Mangene between Beattie and Adam Shemansky. They were linemates for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs and have played together at Maine, also.