University of Maine senior defenseman Ryan Hegarty has agreed to sign an amateur tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
The Crunch are affiliated with the Ducks of Anaheim and Hegarty was a fourth-round draft choice of the Ducks (113th overall) in 2008.
However, unlike Black Bear teammates Will O’Neill, Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn, who signed two-way contracts with NHL teams Winnipeg, Toronto and Buffalo, respectively, before being sent to their AHL affiliates, Hegarty’s contract is solely with Syracuse.
“I’m going to sign with them for the rest of the season and, hopefully, I’ll sign with them again for next year,” said Hegarty, who hasn’t looked at the specifics of his contract yet but did practice with the team on Friday and will take care of some “medical stuff” on Saturday so he can be cleared to play in a game.
“It’s very exciting,” said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Hegarty, a native of Arlington, Mass. “It was bittersweet leaving the campus [Thursday]. Everybody has been so great to me at Maine.”
He said he “felt good” on the ice with the Crunch on Friday and hopes to play against Binghamton on Saturday.
The Crunch played Adirondack on Friday night.
They will have six games left after this weekend.
“They’re in the playoff hunt right now so I’m just going to keep working hard in practice and hope I get a chance to play,” Hegarty said. “The big thing is I want them to keep succeeding.”
The 21-year-old Hegarty is coming off his best year at Maine as he notched two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 40 games. He was also plus-seven in plus-minus, which tied him with Mike Cornell for the top plus-minus among Maine’s defensemen.
Players are awarded a plus-one if they are on the ice when their team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and minus-one if the other team scores one.
He became a shutdown defenseman with defense partner Mark Nemec. They were often assigned the task of keeping the opponents’ most dangerous forwards off the scoresheet. They were also the team’s top penalty-killing tandem and the pair used when Maine had to kill off a five-on-three disadvantage.
“I’m really proud of Ryan,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “His perseverance and determination to become an elite player at the college level has been fantastic.
“I firmly believe he was the best shutdown defenseman in [Hockey East] this season. He was certainly an unsung hero behind our team’s success,” added Whitehead, whose Black Bears earned their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2006-2007 season and finished up at 23-14-3.
“You need good defense to win games and Ryan took great pride in that,” Whitehead said.
“This year prepared me well for what’s ahead,” Hegarty said. “I found my niche [as a defensive defenseman] and want to carry that on to the next level.”
With the help and understanding of his professors, he intends to keep up with his schoolwork in order to graduate later this spring, he said.