Scott Pellerin scored a lot of goals for the University of Maine men’s hockey team. The school’s first Hobey Baker Award winner tallied 106 goals in four seasons.
None was more important than the one he scored his freshman year at Alfond Arena in Orono in the deciding game of Black Bears’ NCAA quarterfinal series against Hockey East rival Providence College.
With a trip to the Frozen Four on the line and UMaine trailing 3-2 with 2:22 remaining in regulation, the freshman from Shediac, New Brunswick, blistered a slap shot past goalie Mark Romaine to tie it.
Martin Robitaille’s back-hander won it for the Black Bears in the second overtime.
The 50-year-old Pellerin, the senior director of player development for the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, said he has watched video of his goal and discovered something funny about it.
“The ice was bad. When I wound up to shoot the puck, it bobbled and elevated an inch off the ice,” Pellerin said. “It was like it was on a tee. It was in the air when I hit it. It just took off. I’ve never shot a puck like that before.”
He figured that made it difficult for Romaine to pick it up and said the puck could have wound up going anywhere, including the student section in the balcony.
He vividly recalls Robitaille’s game-winner.
“[Robitaille] was off balance when he got a rebound. One of their players was in the net [behind Romaine],” Pellerin said. “His back-hander was going slowly and their guy tried to knock it away with his glove. But he whiffed on it. I remember it frame by frame.”
Pellerin marveled at the tremendous energy in Alfond Arena and said it was the most stressful situation he had ever been in.
“I got a 10-minute misconduct for probably saying something I shouldn’t have to the referee. It wasn’t very smart,” he said. “I kept looking at our bench. I had disappointed my team and coaching staff.
“That energized me. I wanted to try to make a difference, to do something to change the game around,” he added.
UMaine lost to Minnesota 7-4 in the Frozen Four that season.
Pellerin scored 29 goals his freshman year, the second most among rookies in program history behind Jean-Yves Roy (39). His 223 career points rank second behind Jim Montgomery’s 301, while his 106 goals and 117 assists place him third all time.
During his career, the Black Bears posted a 127-38-6 record and made the NCAA Tournament all four years.
Pellerin won the Hobey Baker Award his senior year [1991-1992] when he racked up 32 goals and 25 assists in 37 games.
“That was an incredible honor. We had such a great team. It surprised me. We had so many good players on our own team,” said Pellerin who credited his coaches, his teammates and his family for making it possible.
He said head coach Shawn Walsh and his impressive list of assistants including Grant Standbrook, Bruce Crowder, current head coach Red Gendron and former head coach Tim Whitehead gave them a considerable advantage.
“I remember they used to keep stats at every practice. And we did a lot of video work. They were doing analytics back then [1988-1992]. We were so far ahead of other programs,” Pellerin said.
He said his four years at UMaine were incredible from a hockey perspective and personal development perspective.
“They set the foundation for a quality of play and work ethic that helped me throughout my career,” he said.
Pellerin was a third-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils and notched 10 goals and 11 assists in 45 games for the Devils in his first pro season (1992-1993). But over the next three seasons, he played in just seven games for the Devils and logged 222 in the American Hockey League before he was cut.
“I was concerned. I knew I had to find a team and establish myself [as an NHLer],” Pellerin said.
The St. Louis Blues offered him a contract but, a few days before training camp, he injured his back and failed the physical.
The team stuck with him, he got healthy and, in the second of three seasons in St. Louis (1998-1999), he enjoyed his best pro season with 20 goals and 21 assists in 80 games.
Pellerin went on to play for five more NHL teams, including the Boston Bruins, before retiring after the 2003-2004 season.
He wound up playing in 536 NHL regular season games with 72 goals and 126 assists.
Pellerin worked in the private sector for two years but he was interested in coaching. He played in a golf tournament near his Windham, New Hampshire, home hosted by the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
While there, he learned that the Monarchs’ parent team, the Los Angeles Kings, had just fired the Monarchs’ coaching staff. He applied for a coaching position and spent six years as an assistant under Mark Morris before becoming the head coach of the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
His teams went 60-72-20 in two seasons, but his contract wasn’t renewed.
Six months later, Pellerin received a call out of the blue from Maple Leafs assistant general manager Kyle Dubas about a player development job and he took it. Dubas is now the Leafs’ GM.
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Pellerin worked for director of player development Steve Staios and when Staios left in 2015, Pellerin was promoted to director of player development and then senior director of player development.
“I work with all of our draft picks in conjunction with our minor league coaches. I work closely with the coaches. We want to improve our players’ chances of becoming the best player they can be. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
One of those coaches is former UMaine All-American Greg Moore, who on Dec. 1, 2019, became the head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
“Greg is doing a great job. I’ve been impressed with his intelligence and how he thinks about the game. I’m excited to work with him,” Pellerin said.
Pellerin and wife Jennifer have three children. Daughter Jordan just finished her junior year at UMaine, son Jacob is a defenseman who is playing junior hockey in New Hampshire and daughter Julia, 15, has completed her freshman year at the New Hampton School and has already verbally committed to play hockey at Boston College.
Pellerin hopes the NHL season will resume and be completed, but said the focus must remain on keeping people healthy.