It was Nov. 1, 1986. A freshman goalie from Kamloops, British Columbia, was playing in his first Hockey East road game for the University of Maine.
Scott King beat Boston University 7-5 at Walter Brown Arena that night, but his performance was befuddling.
“The five goals came on three shots from the blue line and two from center ice. I didn’t give up any on shots from inside the top of the (faceoff) circles. I stopped everything else,” recalled King, who is now an orthopedic surgeon.
“The first thing (head coach Shawn Walsh) said to me after the game was that I needed to get my eyes checked,” said King, who lives in Hershey, Pa., with his wife Andrea Prats, who is also a doctor, and their four children Evan, Alexandra, Chandler and Lillian.
After the game, King visited an optometrist in Old Town and, sure enough, he found out that he needed glasses.
Upon getting glasses and contact lenses, King discovered “the world is so crisp.
“I’d been missing out,” he quipped.
That season turned out to be a memorable one because King and fellow British Columbian Al Loring backstopped the team to its first-ever NCAA Division I tournament appearance.
It was UMaine’s first winning season since 1980-1981.
Walsh had taken over for Jack Semler as head coach in 1984 as UMaine became a member of a new league, Hockey East.
UMaine went to Michigan State and lost to the Spartans 11-5 in a two-games, total-goals NCAA series.
“I remember the excitement that year. It was our first smell of success, so to speak,” said King. “It was real cool to be a part of that. There was excitement all around town. You could tell Shawn was putting something (special) together.”
The next season was even better.
En route to a 34-8-2 record and their first trip to the Frozen Four, the Black Bears had a regular-season showdown at Alfond Arena with Minnesota and its outstanding goalie, Robb Stauber, who went on to win the Hobey Baker Award given to the nation’s top player.
Second-ranked UMaine upset No. 1 Minnesota at a packed Alfond Arena on Jan. 15, 1988.
“It was our first big-time game,” said King. “That’s when I knew this was real … that we were legitimate (national championship contenders). We had just beaten Minnesota, the No. 1 in the country.”
The Frozen Four took the Black Bears to Lake Placid, N.Y., where they met Frank Anzalone’s Lake Superior State Lakers in the semifinals. UMaine jumped out to a 2-0 lead but the Lakers, with their relentless forechecking, wound up winning 6-3.
“There were a couple weird goals … little deflections that found holes. They really cycled the puck around. It was a brand-new style (we weren’t used to),” remembered King.
He said he wound up rooming with former Laker Pete Stauber, brother of Robb, when they were in pro hockey together.
“He didn’t let me forget that game,” chuckled King.
King was an exceptional puck handler so the coaching staff would have his teammates pass the puck back to him on the penalty kill.
“I used to love playing the puck and I worked on it a lot, even in high school. (Former NHL goalies) Pete Peeters and Ron Hextall were the two guys I looked up to the most,” said King.
The Black Bears returned to the Frozen Four in 1989 by virtue of a 5-4 victory over Boston College for their first Hockey East tournament title and a thrilling 4-3 double-overtime win over Providence in the deciding game of their best-of-three NCAA tournament quarterfinal series in Orono.
Minnesota beat the Black Bears 7-4 in their Frozen Four semifinal at St. Paul, Minnesota. UMaine wound up 31-14.
But it was a frustrating season for King, who received a nasty gash to his thigh during a game when Denver’s Ed Cristofoli slipped and slid into him and cut him with his skate.
“That was one of my worst years. I came back too early. I couldn’t do things I normally did,” said King, who was sharing the goaltending with Matt DelGuidice.
King and DelGuidice led UMaine to another 30-win season (33-11-2) during 1989-1990 but Wisconsin beat UMaine 7-3 and 4-3 in overtime in their quarterfinal series at Madison, Wisconsin.
King was a three-time All-Hockey East selection and still owns the school record for games played (110) and minutes played (5,792). He shares the distinction as UMaine’s all-time winningest goalie (66) with New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow.
King, who performs hip and knee replacements, was inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and will return this weekend for the first time since his induction for the program’s 40th anniversary celebration.
“Those were four unbelievable years. I still get a little choked up when I think about them. I owe so much to Shawn. It was the only scholarship offer I had. Shawn or maybe Jay (assistant Jay Leach) saw something in me and took a chance on me,” said the 50-year-old King, who had a three-year pro career and appeared in two games for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.