Josh Van Dyk had barely left his seat on an airplane when he took a telephone call regarding his decision to leave the University of Maine to play professional hockey. At the time, he was trying to find the gate for his connecting flight out of Philadelphia, so he could continue the second leg of his three-flight trip to Canada.

Van Dyk is one of two Maine defensemen who on Thursday signed amateur tryout agreements with American Hockey League teams. While Van Dyk was en route to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to join the Abbotsford Heat, the Calgary Flames’ AHL farm team, teammate Mike Banwell finished a day of classes and traveled to upstate New York to join the Albany Devils, the New Jersey Devils’ AHL farm team.

“I’m excited about it, and it’s a great opportunity,” Van Dyk said. “I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to prove myself. I’ve got to work hard and hopefully I’ll be given a chance to earn a spot with the organization.”

In 36 games this season at Maine, Van Dyk scored three goals and 15 assists and was a plus-nine. He emerged as an offensive presence late in the season. Van Dyk plans to complete his degree in business through online correspondence courses.

Banwell rebounded from an injury-riddled junior year to provide a physical presence on defense and at right wing. He registered three assists in 32 games. Banwell also plans to complete his degree in finance and graduate in May.

“I enjoy the pro style of hockey a little more than the college style,” said Banwell, who drove Thursday from Orono to Albany. “It’s a little rougher and a little more old-school, but my style fits pro hockey a little more.”

Van Dyk and Banwell joined pro teams five days after teammate Tanner House signed with the Edmonton Oilers. House played in his first pro game with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, a 4-3 shootout loss Tuesday at Milwaukee.

“We’re very proud of the senior class, and they’ve really developed,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “Each one has developed in his own way into a standout player, and this is another affirmation of that development.”

Whitehead said seniors Jeff Dimmen and Robby Dee will not opt to turn pro until after graduation, as both are recovering from injuries. Dimmen, a defenseman, played with an ankle injury while Dee, a center whose NHL rights are held by the Edmonton Oilers, battled an abdominal strain.

Whitehead said that junior right wing Gustav Nyquist has not yet made a decision regarding his future, either at Maine or with the Detroit Red Wings, who hold his NHL rights. Maine juniors Brian Flynn, Will O’Neill and Spencer Abbott have all indicated that they will return to Maine for their senior seasons.

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

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