BOSTON — For anyone who still believes Maine hockey is lost and has no sense of itself: stop. Restart the video of Saturday’s 7-6 overtime loss to Boston College for Hockey East’s championship.
Watch again Friday’s 5-2 Hockey East victory over Boston University. Find the audio or the transcripts of what was said in the postgame press conferences.
The tenacity, resilience and success that marked the good Maine teams of past decades is back.
Remember that moment in the third period Friday when Boston University finally whittled Maine’s lead to 3-2? My notebook still has the scribbled questions: can Maine hold? What are they made of this year?
There was no need to ask the same questions at any point Saturday night against Boston College. The two teams were heavyweight fighters, said BC Coach Jerry York, each knocking down the other, each picking themselves up again and again.
Here’s a curious observation: Maine never led in the championship game, yet York kept seeing his team down.
Three years ago in the Frozen Four semifinals in St. Louis, Maine coughed up a lead to Michigan State and lost. Goalie Dave Wilson was there, if not on the ice. David deKastrozza was a freshman forward that year and did see playing time.
“I remember,” said deKastrozza, shaking his head. It seems like a long time ago.
What happened in the two seasons that followed tested everyone in Maine’s hockey program, from head coach Tim Whitehead to the newest recruits.
The Black Bears couldn’t get back to the NCAA tournament. There were empty seats in Alfond Arena and barren dreams. The fear was that Maine hockey was sliding into long-term mediocrity. More fans cried for Whitehead’s head.
Today, those cries have been choked off.
Hold the sell orders. Buy instead. It’s safe to invest your emotions in the Maine hockey program. Many of you did Saturday night, turning TD Garden seats Maine blue.
DeKastrozza, a senior from Toms River, N.J., scored Maine’s fourth goal in the semifinals Friday night and was on the TD Garden ice without a stick when Boston University had its two-man advantage.
“I couldn’t go back to the bench to get another stick and leave just two of us against their five.”
His serious face cracked a smile. Three years ago in St. Louis, older teammates kept looking for one of their own to step up when Michigan State charged for the lead. Friday night and again Saturday, everyone wearing Maine blue-and-white jumped over the boards to bring aid to the fight.
“They came at us,” said Eric Gryba, a Boston University senior defenseman. “They didn’t let off the gas the whole game. We had a few glimpses of hope that we would turn things around, but they just kept coming.
“Hats off to them. They played a heck of a college hockey game. They’re a great team.”
When they’re not questioning the heritage of someone’s mother or digging elbows on the sly, college hockey players can throw bouquets of respect. Funny how that happens.
Last week, Maine brought third-string senior goalie Wilson out of mothballs and eliminated UMass-Lowell from the Hockey East tournament. Boston University was the defending national champs but a flawed and unmotivated team. Maine beat them with offense, peppering goalie Keiran Millan with twice the shots Wilson was facing.
You might have thought BU would have swarmed the Maine net, much like Boston College did a night later. Instead, Maine took the action to the other end, giving Wilson the breathing room he appreciated. When needed, he was there. Steady. Solid.
“We weren’t ready for how well Maine was playing,” said Kevin Shattenkirk, a BU junior defenseman and team captain. “We didn’t match their intensity. We lost our battles.”
Maine won those battles Friday. It won again Saturday, but in a different way. Restart the videos. Show to it the recruits who may have forgotten that Orono is a destination point for hockey players.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: