ORONO – If you’re an opponent playing against Joey Diamond, there is probably no polite way to describe him on the ice.

An annoyance. A pest. There are a few unprintable terms, as well.

But if you’re on the University of Maine hockey team, you obviously have another perspective on the sophomore right wing.

You’re glad to have a player who isn’t afraid to mix things up in front of the net and in the corners.

You respect the fact he plays bigger than his 5-foot-7 stature.

You regard him as an impact player with an edge to his game.

And yes, Mike Banwell has heard some of the things Maine’s opponents have said to and about Diamond.

“And they’re not too happy,” said Banwell, a senior defenseman. “Joey can be a bit of an agitator, which is an asset for us. He does a great job of getting under the other team’s skin while putting points on the board.”

Diamond has six goals and five assists in Maine’s first 10 games, and so far he’s provided a spark for the Black Bears. His goal Nov. 12 at Alfond Arena was the winner in Maine’s 4-2 victory over Northeastern. A night later, Diamond picked up a loose puck off the boards and beat Northeastern goalie Chris Rawlings on a backhand to tie the game at 2-2, the first of three third-period goals for Maine in another 4-2 win.

“I feel like I’m contributing more on offense as of now and kind of getting the team going, whether it’s a hit or scoring a goal or anything like that, or just making a good play along the boards,” Diamond said. “The little things, really.”

But it’s that edge that Diamond brings — whether it’s digging in the corners, getting under an opponent’s skin or scoring a momentum-changing goal — that has helped the Black Bears most.

“Joey’s not the biggest guy but he’s incredibly big in front of the net,” Banwell said. “He brings a huge level of toughness and some inspiration to our team.”

His attitude on the ice, Diamond says, is important.

“With the team we have, I can afford to sometimes maybe not be intimidated or give that push back to whoever it is,” Diamond said. “I think the guys like it and other teams hate it, and that’s kind of the only reason I do it.”

But discipline has been a key in Diamond’s game this season, particularly learning to harness emotions and actions while getting under the skin of opponents. During the 2008-09 season with the Hamilton Red Wings of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Diamond scored 90 points and had 213 penalty minutes. In his freshman year at Maine, Diamond led the team with 73 penalty minutes, and he had 18 penalty minutes in Maine’s first 10 games this season.

“He’s made an improvement in his discipline,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “But he inspires others to slash, crosscheck or even punch him. You love to have him on your team, but you hate to play against him.”

Diamond spent much of his first season at Maine trying to find his niche. Was he a goal scorer? Was he a penalty killer? Was he strictly an agitator? But then came the Hockey East playoffs, when Diamond had three goals and two assists in five games, including one of Maine’s most memorable goals from last season. He tied the Hockey East championship game against Boston College at 6-6 with 27.3 seconds left in regulation.

“He rose to the forefront for the team,” Whitehead said.

Now, Diamond not only provides a bit of agitation, he also brings a gritty presence to the front of the net, using his small size and his speed to his advantage.

“So much of the game is played below the faceoff dots,” Whitehead said. “Joey shines in those areas, and you need someone who’s tough to be in there.

“He’s got a low center of gravity and he can get underneath players effectively. And he’s almost impossible to knock off the puck.”

And he’s discovered his role.

“I feel a lot more comfortable with every game I play this year,” Diamond said. “I feel a lot more confident that I can go into every game and contribute.”

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

[email protected]