When it comes to being a Division I hockey standout, Gustav Nyquist has eclipsed every expectation that’s been set for him in his first two seasons at the University of Maine. Put him on a fresh sheet of ice and Nyquist is sure to draw attention.

But set the Swede in front of a video game console — an Xbox in particular — and any expectations his teammates have of him might diminish. Call of Duty, a video game designed to simulate infantry and armed warfare, is a favorite of Nyquist’s, but the junior right wing has yet to unlock a “nuke,” a level that several teammates have reached or surpassed. A complicated formula is necessary for a player to achieve 25 consecutive kills, known as “achieving a nuke.”

“It’s bragging rights, definitely,” said defenseman Will O’Neill, who could barely contain a grin when discussing Nyquist’s video game skills. “Ryan Hegarty has reached it. Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn, too. Right now I’d say he’s about the same level as me.”

Nyquist’s gaming goal is negligible, considering what he has accomplished in two seasons of college hockey. A year after he emerged as Maine’s top right wing in the 2008-09 season, Nyquist became one of the nation’s premier players last season. The 21-year-old from Malmo, Sweden, led the nation in scoring with 19 goals and 42 assists, earned All-American and became Maine’s first Hobey Baker Award finalist in four years. He’s the 10th player in school history to be named a finalist for the award, given annually to the top Division I hockey player.

During the offseason, Nyquist put to rest the questions about his future: Would he turn pro with the Detroit Red Wings? Would he take a risk of toiling in the minors for a year instead of helping the Black Bears in pursuit of an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 2007?

Nyquist emphasized it again and again. He would be back for another season in Orono with a new set of goals.

“Personally, I’m trying to improve every day and help the team as much as possible,” Nyquist said. “The Hobey honor is fun but that’s not what I think about. As long as we’re winning, that’s what’s important.”

The way last season ended, a 7-6 overtime loss to Boston College in the Hockey East final at TD Garden in Boston, was painful. But it also gave Nyquist and the Black Bears a spark.

“Being so close last year, that made our team feel like we’re a team that can be counted on,” Nyquist said. “We had a great playoff run last year, going to the Garden and beating Boston University, then a heartbreak loss to BC

“Looking back, we were pleased with what we did. But there’s unfinished business.”

NEVER TIME TO WASTE

Nyquist spent the offseason in Sweden, where he spent much of his free time playing golf. His best day?

“I shot a 68,” he said. “But that’s all I did. I trained and played a lot of golf.”

The offseason training, he said, was crucial. He worked out five to six days a week in preparation for his return, focusing on weight training, cardio and speed work, aiming to get faster and stronger.

“You can’t afford a summer off,” Nyquist said. “You need to improve all the time.”

His teammates praise his work ethic. They look to him as a leader — Nyquist has been designated as an assistant captain this season — and they have witnessed Nyquist’s maturation over the past two seasons. They’ve seen him reach out to the freshman class, to introduce himself and include them in the team dynamic.

“It’s amazing what kind of player he is,” sophomore forward Joey Diamond said. “What he did last year, being a Hobey Baker finalist and the nation’s leading scorer, that’s amazing. Having him, it gives us confidence.”

And to the chagrin of Hockey East opponents, Nyquist is back, a decision that came as a surprise to UMass-Lowell defenseman Maury Edwards. Now Edwards has to face Nyquist when the Black Bears open Friday at home against the Riverhawks.

“It makes me nervous,” Edwards said with an uneasy laugh. “He’s a guy, who, when he’s on the ice, you’ve got to know where exactly he is. He’s the kind of guy that will put a team away.”

A DECISION TO STAY

Edwards and Boston University defenseman David Warsofsky, players who, like Nyquist, opted not to turn pro after last season, believe Nyquist’s return will help boost Hockey East’s profile.

“In college hockey, there’s a lot more dedication to your friends, your teammates, your school,” Warsofsky said. “I think there’s an obligation to go back to school and hopefully get his degree before he turns pro, and help everyone. It sets a good example for the rest of college hockey.”

Looking back at last spring, some of Nyquist’s teammates admitted they had some anxieties about his future and whether it would be in Orono or in the pros.

“There’s always that thought,” Maine defenseman Jeff Dimmen said. “Ultimately it comes down to what’s best for him. We were all hoping and trying to get him to stay.”

Others had little doubt.

The team captain, Tanner House, never questioned the possibility that Nyquist would move to the pros. What impressed House is the way Nyquist handled the questions that seemed to arise daily after Maine’s season ended.

“I think Gus has acted pretty professional about it, the way he always has been,” House said. “He’s been open with everybody about what’s going on and when he told me when the season was over that he was coming back, I left it at that. I never had to question it. There was no anxiety at all.”

O’Neill, who is Nyquist’s roommate and in-house Xbox nemesis, takes a pragmatic approach.

“It’s his decision,” O’Neill said. “If he had went or if he had stayed, I would have been supportive. But he realized what was at stake here. And what he can accomplish here, that’s only going to come around for him once in a lifetime.”

When the right time comes, Nyquist said, he will make the decision. But again, unfinished business remains for himself and for his team.

“I’m just happy to be back at Maine,” Nyquist said. “There are some great opportunities here. My dream right now is to be able to play for this team, and I’m focused on Maine.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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