The list of motivations for Nolan Vesey will be long when the University of Maine plays its first of three hockey games at Cross Insurance Arena on Friday night.

Vesey would like to see his Black Bears get back to their winning ways.

He wants a good showing for his team in front of Portland fans.

And then there is the opponent: Boston College. Not only are the Eagles a Hockey East rival – the conference opener for Maine, actually – but Boston College represents something else: part of the chip Vesey carries.

Vesey, a junior, comes from North Reading, Massachusetts, the hometown of several college players – including his brother Jimmy, last season’s Hobey Baker Award winner from Harvard, and now the New York Rangers’ team leader in goals.

Most North Reading players end up playing locally – including brothers Ryan and Casey Fitzgerald on the Boston College roster. But Nolan Vesey headed to Orono to join the Black Bears.


“They were the first school that I felt really wanted me, you know what I mean?” Vesey said. “I felt wanted here, and I kind of said the heck with the other schools, I’m going to Maine and beat those schools.”

One of “those schools” will line up against Maine on Friday, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.

Maine (3-3-2) is coming off back-to-back winless weekends on the road, with 0-1-1 showings against uninspiring Miami of Ohio (3-2-2) and Colgate (1-3-3).

Maine began the season with two weekends at home, sweeping RPI and splitting two overtime games with nationally ranked Quinnipiac, currently sixth in the USCHO national poll at 4-2-1.

“We were down 2-0 (in the first game against Quinnipiac). We came back and won,” Vesey said. “We didn’t play our best, but now we know we can play with anyone in the country.”

Boston College will test that theory. The Eagles (6-2-1, 2-0-1 Hockey East) got off to a 1-2 start and are unbeaten since. They are ranked No. 5 in the USCHO poll.


“They are fast and talented,” Maine Coach Red Gendron said. “They are young with a lot of good players – a lot of NHL picks, like they always have.”

Maine has four NHL draft picks, including Vesey, 21, a sixth-round choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014.

Should Vesey make it to the NHL, he will be the third in the family to do so after his brother and his father, Jim Vesey, Merrimack College’s all-time leading scorer and a seven-year pro player – including a stint with the Maine Mariners (1991-92) and 15 NHL games, four of them with the Bruins.

“We fell in love with the game at an early age,” Nolan Vesey said.

Even though Nolan was two years younger than Jimmy, they played on the same youth teams, which their dad helped coach.

“I got to play with the older (players),” Nolan said. “Dad told me if I wasn’t up to speed, I would have to go down to my own age group.”


Vesey stayed with the older kids. He then played high school hockey for Austin Prep in Reading, where Maine’s new coaching staff noticed him in 2013.

“He’s a scorer,” Gendron said. “He has a presence around the net. The game slows down for him in front of the net, where it speeds up for other players.”

Vesey committed to play at Maine and, after one year of junior hockey, brought his poised scoring approach to Orono in 2014. He led all freshmen with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) and was named the Black Bears’ rookie of the year.

Last season, Vesey was part of a collective team slump. He had 11 points (5-6) as the Black Bears finished 8-24-6.

“It was our inability to create offense. It got frustrating,” Vesey said.

“The year went the way it went, and it’s in the past.”


In the present, Vesey is Maine’s second-best scorer with seven points (3-4), playing on the same line as impressive freshman Mitchell Fossier (6-3).

That line has clicked. But Maine is a young team, still making mistakes and taking penalties. On the Black Bears’ two trips, they went on the penalty kill 28 times, allowing six goals.

Maine has a test this weekend with Boston College, Friday in Portland and Saturday in Orono.

The Black Bears, and especially a certain junior from North Reading, would like to prove they can compete.

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