University of Maine center Tim Doherty was not pleased with his play during the 2018-19 campaign even though he tied for fourth on the team in scoring.
He collected nine goals and eight assists in 36 games but was a team-worst minus-14 in plus-minus, which awards a player a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the opponent scores a goal.
The 6-foot, 190-pound native of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, used that statistic as motivation for this season, and it has paid off.
Doherty is UMaine’s co-leading scorer entering this weekend’s Hockey East series at Northeastern with six goals and eight assists in 12 games. He is second-best on the team in plus-minus at plus-six.
“I wasn’t happy with the way I played last season. I definitely had a chip on my shoulder this summer coming into the fall,” Doherty said. “I worked on my skating a lot this past summer. I have a skating coach back home. I did a lot of skating with the puck. I have never been the best skater, and I wanted to get better.”
He specifically sought to improve his quickness in traffic.
“I wanted to be able to get out of tight areas and give myself an extra second to make plays,” Doherty said.
He acknowledged his good start this season but isn’t satisfied.
“I can always be better. I want to get better in every practice and every game. I want to be the best I can be to help us win championships,” Doherty said. “I’m happy with my start but happier about the way the team is playing.”
At 7-3-2 overall and 4-2-2 in Hockey East, the Black Bears are off to their best start in the seven years Red Gendron has been head coach.
“[Doherty] is off to a real good start, but the thing that is most impressive besides his play is his leadership,” Gendron said. “He has done a very good job with the other captains bonding this team.”
The Northeastern series begins a stretch of seven consecutive road games.
“We figured out our identity pretty early. We can’t be a skilled, perimeter team. We’re a hard-working team that has to get the puck down low [into the offensive zone] and get in on the grinds,” Doherty said.
“We have to play to our ability and identity to win games.”
Doherty said another key to UMaine’s success has been its chemistry.
“We are really close this year. That has been a huge reason for our success. We don’t have any cliques. It’s one big group of guys who love each other,” he said.
Sophomore right wing Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup said Doherty has been the glue of the team.
“He’s an unbelievable leader. He includes everybody in everything,” Schmidt-Svejstrup said. “He’s also a very good player.”
Junior goalie Jeremy Swayman said Doherty has a “pretty deceptive shot and can really pass the puck. He’s pretty lethal.”
Doherty scored the tying goal in last Saturday’s 2-1 overtime win over New Hampshire, one-timing an Adam Dawe pass past Mike Robinson while UMaine was on the power play.
Doherty said even though the Black Bears are on the road for their next seven games it won’t change the way they play.
“We’ve got a couple of good Hockey East opponents [Northeastern and UMass],” he said. “It’s going to be exciting.”