ORONO – They said he was the “nearest thing to perpetual motion.”
The original Red Mangene carried the football while wearing No. 57 for Boston College, helping lead the Eagles against Alabama in the 1943 Orange Bowl in Miami.
“A little carrot-topped halfback who runs with the speed of a hunted hare,” is how the Miami News described Mangene (the same source as the “perpetual motion” comment).
Robert “Red” Mangene, all 160 pounds of him, was hard to stop.
And now you might understand a little more about his grandson, Matt Red Mangene, a kid who was always fast on his feet and is a whiz on skates.
“I guess it’s in my genes,” Matt Mangene said.
Mangene, who turned 23 last week, brings that speed to the University of Maine hockey team, which plays in the NCAA first round Saturday against Minnesota-Duluth. The Black Bears rely heavily on Mangene’s ability to create opportunities.
Mangene, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, will skate through a defender, around another or dig the puck out of a crowd. Because there is something else Mangene inherited from the man he called Grandpa:
“He’s one of the hardest workers on and off the ice,” said Adam Shemansky, a teammate of Mangene’s going back to their years with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs.
“He’s always trying to improve. It’s pretty evident with the jump he’s made this year.”
After scoring 11 points as a freshman and 10 points last season, Mangene has 33 points as a junior.
“Matt’s development over the past three years has been remarkable,” Coach Tim Whitehead said. “He’s a very focused and determined young man, and I believe this growth is just the tip of the iceberg for Matt.
“If he continues his progress as we think, I believe Matt will emerge as one of the top players in the nation as a senior.”
Even though he began the season as a defenseman — he has flip-flopped his whole career — Mangene ranks right behind Maine’s best players in scoring — after the Black Bears’ top line of Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond.
But with Abbott questionable Saturday because of a head injury, Mangene may jump to the top line, like he did for much of Saturday’s Hockey East final.
“I’m not going to be Spence, putting in goals left and right,” Mangene said. “I’m there to bring speed to the line, get Brian and Joey space, and get those two guys the puck.”
Mangene brings plenty of motivation to the NCAA. Not only is there the quest to bring the Black Bears back to national prominence, there is family rivalry.
Little sister Meagan has been to a pair of Frozen Fours with her Boston College women’s team as a sophomore defenseman. The Eagles reached the national semifinals this year, losing to Wisconsin.
“She’s had the bragging rights,” Matt said. “Hopefully we can get over the hump and bring something back to Orono.”
After the BC women lost last weekend, Megan and mom Shellie flew from Minnesota to Boston to join dad David at the Hockey East final. They are a close family canvassing the country (and beyond) to watch hockey. Meagan has played in three U-18 world championships, winning two golds and a silver.
Meagan Mangene appears to have also inherited a trait or two from Robert Mangene.
The Mangenes are originally from Massachusetts — Robert Mangene hailed from Malden. David Mangene, because of his job, had to move his family to Miller Place, N.Y., on Long Island.
Still, Matt Mangene’s favorite sports teams are the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots and Celtics.
“My dad wasn’t going to let me grow up to be any kind of New York fan,” said Mangene, who considers Dustin Pedroia his favorite athlete.
His favorite person? Mangene becomes animated when talking of Robert Mangene, the charging halfback who turned down pro football offers after college to enlist in the Marines.
“My grandpa was actually in the first wave at (the battle of) Iwo Jima,” said Matt Mangene, who is a business major but has a passionate interest in military history, especially when it involves his grandfather.
“He is someone I looked up to my whole life.”
Matt Mangene’s idol died while Matt was in high school, away playing in a national youth hockey tournament.
“That’s when I changed my number,” Mangene said.
Which is why the Black Bears will skate onto the ice Saturday night and count on No. 57 to be his blazing, energetic, determined self.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: