ORONO, Maine —- When Jake Rutt was 8, the University of Maine won the school’s second NCAA hockey championship, beating archrival New Hampshire 3-2 in overtime in the title game in Anaheim, California.
That accomplishment eventually played a significant role in the Scarborough defenseman’s decision to attend Maine.
That 1998-99 team will be honored before Friday night’s game against David Quinn’s Boston University Terriers, and Rutt, an alternate captain, would like nothing better than to give those returning players a win against the nation’s No. 3-ranked team.
“I remembered watching coach [Ben] Guite and [defenseman] Peter Metcalf. I looked up to the guys on that team,” said Rutt. “They were one of the reasons I really wanted to come here. They united the state. You saw a lot more kids wearing Maine jerseys after that. They also had some good teams in the early 2000s.”
Guite, a center on the 1998-99 team, is an assistant coach at his alma mater.
Rutt said Maine is a “prideful state,” and he is hoping this year’s team and future teams can restore that pride by returning the program to the elite status it had during those years.
“We’re obviously proud of our tradition and our past success here and when you see these guys before the game, you’re going to want to impress them,” said Maine sophomore defenseman Dan Renouf. “We appreciate what they did for us, and we want to get a win for them.”
Sophomore defenseman Eric Schurhamer noted that having that team back will create a special atmosphere as well as provide extra motivation.
Rutt said once the puck drops, the nostalgia will be replaced by the fact there are two very important Hockey East points on the line and they will be facing a formidable opponent featuring the nation’s top-scoring line in freshman phenom Jack Eichel between junior Danny O’Regan and senior Evan Rodrigues.
“They’re very talented guys, but you can’t show them too much respect or they’ll shred you,” said Rutt. “You’ve got to be aggressive, extend your stick and take away their time and space. Even very talented players can’t show off that talent if there is a jersey in their face. We’re going to have to stay with our checks all game.”
“We have to make sure we know where they are at all times,” said Schurhamer.
Being the home team, Maine will get the last line change, and Rutt said that will enable Black Bear coach Red Gendron to get the “matchup we want” against BU’s top line.
Renouf said a lack of mental toughness resulting in passive play in the third periods of the two Vermont losses last weekend has been addressed by the coaching staff.
“We have to be mentally tougher and attack in everything we do,” he said.