ORONO, Maine — University of Maine senior right wing and tri-captain Joey Diamond knows he will be a marked man this season.
He was Hockey East’s top goal scorer a year ago overall (25) and in league play (20). He was tied for third in the country in average goals per game (0.68).
He was on the most prolific line in the country with Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick (final three) finalist Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn.
Abbott, a first-team All-American and Hockey East Player of the Year, had 21 goals and 41 assists (62 points) to lead the nation and Flynn (18 and 30) tied for 10th.
Diamond, a second team All-Hockey East choice, notched 22 assists to go with his 25 goals and was tied for 12th with his 47 points. His 11 power-play goals tied him for first in the country with five other players, including teammate Mark Anthoine.
All-Hockey East first-team choices Abbott and Flynn have graduated.
Diamond is the only returnee who scored more than 12 goals in 2011-2012.
He also led the team in penalty minutes with 117, so one might assume opponents will try to capitalize on his feistiness and goad him into penalties.
Diamond will be ready for it.
“I have to show the referees that I intend to be disciplined right off the bat. So, hopefully, I can get some calls going my way,” Diamond said Wednesday during media day at Alfond Arena.
Diamond, who has 320 career penalty minutes, 39 shy of Prestin Ryan’s school record, proved he could control his temper a year ago.
After being assessed 88 penalty minutes through Maine’s first 20 games, he picked up just 29 during the final 20 games.
“He did a tremendous job the second half of last season,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “And [opponents] were all over him.
“It’s going to be even more challenging for him this year,” added Whitehead. “He won’t have as big a supporting cast like Abbott, Flynn and [defenseman Will] O’Neill, guys who were comfortable in this situation. Joey’s going to be our go-to guy but he’s ready for that. He’s grown on and off the ice and he’s excited about the challenge.”
“I’m going to keep playing the way I’ve always played. I just want to prove myself on and off the ice to these guys,” said the 5-foot-8, 175-pound Diamond. “I do have a different role as a captain and I want to be one of the best leaders possible. I want to show these guys the ropes.”
Diamond’s role will be elevated defensively as he will be killing penalties on a regular basis for the first time and he’s looking forward to it.
“I plan on playing in every situation. I’ll do whatever it takes [to win],” said Diamond, who is considered one of the country’s most effective corner men.
“He’s just got to stay healthy and that’s tough to do the way Joey plays,” said Whitehead. “He’ll get banged up but he’s a guy who will play through pain. I’ve got to be careful not to give him too much ice time early.”
Senior tri-captain and defenseman Mike Cornell, who is also Diamond’s roommate, expects Diamond to handle the pressure, as does junior goalie Dan Sullivan.
“We talk about it a lot. He knows there’s going to be pressure on him but he thrives on pressure,” said Cornell. “He’s in a leadership position and he puts the team first. You know you can count on him every night.”
“He’s a very fiery guy with a lot of passion and that’s what I love about him,” said Sullivan. “He’ll control [his penalty minutes]. He did it the second half of last season.”
Mount Katahdin was challenging
The Black Bears had a challenging time climbing Mount Katahdin on Saturday as cold, rainy weather made it more difficult and prevented them from reaching the summit.
“It was unique. I had never done anything like that before,” said freshman left winger Devin Shore of Ajax, Ontario. “It was one of the most physically demanding things I’ve ever done in my life, for sure. It tests your character.”
Freshman forward Will Merchant agreed.
“It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done,” said Merchant, who is from Eagan, Minn. “You were fatigued the whole time.”
“It wasn’t that much fun going up but it was pretty cool when we got there,” said freshman goalie Matt Morris from Ridgewood, N.J. “It was worse going down. It was slippery. You had to really pay attention. We don’t have any Mount Katahdins in New Jersey. It was tough but it was worth it.”
The freshmen said it was a valuable endeavor.
“It was a great bonding experience. We all had to help each other out,” said Morris.
Prospects game excites Merchant
Merchant will play in the first ever CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects game in Buffalo on Saturday. The game is for the top 40 U.S.-born players who are draft eligible next year. They will be divided into two teams.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and it will help me out a lot with everything,” said Merchant.
He doesn’t feel any pressure.
“I’m just going to play my game and, hopefully, I’ll play well,” said Merchant.
“It’s a great honor for Will,” said Whitehead. “It will be a great experience no matter how he plays. And he’ll get to play in a game before anyone else on our team.”
Maine opens at home Oct. 6 against Quinnipiac (Conn.).