ORONO – At the start of the season, Spencer Abbott set a pragmatic goal for himself.

Shoot the puck more often.

Easy enough, right?

But Abbott, a junior left wing on the University of Maine hockey team, had a purpose in his objective. Last year, he took 79 shots in 38 games, less than seven percent of Maine’s 1,172 shots on the season.

Take more shots, and Abbott would be able to create more scoring chances for himself and for his teammates.

“I’m more of a playmaker than I am a goal scorer,” said Abbott, who was fifth on the team in shots on goal last season. “I wanted to get my shot total up to around the top of the team. That alone would create more assists on rebounds, or maybe goals I would have gotten if I hadn’t shot the puck.”

Maine, ranked seventh in both national polls, faces No. 3 Boston University at 7 tonight in Boston, and Abbott enters as Hockey East’s leading scorer with six goals and seven assists — one more point than Gustav Nyquist (two goals, 10 assists). Abbott is fourth on the Black Bears with 20 shots on goal, behind Tanner House (37), Brian Flynn (26) and Nyquist (23).

“He’s always been a pretty good shooter and has great hands,” said Maine captain Tanner House, Abbott’s linemate. “Now I feel he’s got that confidence, and he’s shooting more and pucks are going in. It’s good to see him doing that more.”

Earlier this week, Abbott was named Hockey East’s top performer for October.

“I didn’t expect (the award) at all coming into the season,” Abbott said. “I didn’t expect anything like that to happen. I got a few lucky breaks and a good start, and that’s all it was.”

Abbott, though, doesn’t want the success to be a one-month trend. For ongoing success, Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said, Abbott will need to continue to mind the details.

“Consistency at a high level is what separates elite players from good players,” Whitehead said. “The most effective way to achieve consistency at a high level is to practice well consistently and to focus on executing the little things, the small details of the game.”

Abbott is Maine’s interchangeable piece on its top two lines. He began the season playing on Maine’s second line with center Robby Dee and right wing Joey Diamond. Before the North Dakota series Oct. 22-23, Abbott and Brian Flynn swapped lines, with Abbott joining Nyquist and House on the top line.

Both lines, Abbott explained, have skill players. With Nyquist, Abbott works with a player with uncanny vision on the ice, as well as the ability to create openings. With House, there’s a skilled two-way center. With Dee, Abbott worked with a center who could control faceoffs and who had a strong shot, as well as a right wing in Diamond who manned the territory deep in the offensive zone.

“Perhaps he’s the common denominator,” Whitehead said. “He makes the players better around him, as do the other guys on those two lines, but he’s quietly become one of our top performers.”

Abbott, House said, brings a knack for puck control, as well as the ability to be the second man in on the forecheck. Furthermore, House said, Abbott has a unique kind of patience that helps him both in making decisions and for managing the point on Maine’s power play.

“I like to be known as someone that can contribute on this hockey team,” Abbott said. “That’s all I’m looking for, to be a contributor.”


Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]