Liam Darcy earned first-team all-conference honors this season as a defenseman for the University of New England, which plays Utica in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals on Saturday. University of New England athletics photo

BIDDEFORD — Kevin Swallow, the University of New England’s men’s hockey coach, knew that standout senior defenseman Liam Darcy has just one penalty this season.

What Swallow didn’t realize was that Darcy’s tripping penalty in a 6-1 win over Bowdoin on Nov. 23 was the first, and only, penalty of Darcy’s college career.

“You seriously have one penalty in four years? Seriously?” Swallow said, leaning back in his chair and pointing at Darcy sitting to his right. “That’s wild. Absolutely wild.”

“I try to just stay disciplined. I try to get a stick on pucks and not in skates or anything like that. That’s how I play the game, clean,” said Darcy, an East Waterboro native.

Don’t mistake Darcy’s lack of penalties for a lack of effort. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Darcy has been a key player for the Nor’easters, helping UNE (22-3-1) win the Commonwealth Coast Conference title. Ranked No. 8 in the latest Division III poll, the Nor’easters play at No. 2 Utica (25-2-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals. The winner earns a spot in the semifinals March 25 in Lake Placid, New York.

One of the team’s captains, Darcy was honored by the Commonwealth Coast Conference as a first-team all-conference selection. In 25 games, Darcy has 15 assists and 15 blocked shots.


“He’s been really steady over his four years. To get first-team all-conference without scoring a single goal this year, I think, says a lot about his four years. A lot of coaches probably recognized the career he’s had here, start to finish,” Swallow said.

“I wasn’t focused on (all-conference) too much. I was thinking about senior year and trying to do the best, teamwise. I wasn’t expecting to get first team, considering I haven’t scored a goal this year. It is an honor,” Darcy said.

Even with no goals, Darcy has made some contributions to UNE’s offense. He has 11 goals and 41 assists in his career, and assisted on Jared Christy’s winning goal in the 3-2 overtime victory over Endicott in the conference championship game.

“He plays super hard every single shift. He’s super focused. He doesn’t let anything distract him from what’s going on in the game,” said senior Alex Vukota, Darcy’s partner on UNE’s top defensive pairing.

Given Darcy’s commitment to playing the game clean, the question had to be asked. Was the tripping penalty against Bowdoin a bad call? Perhaps it was an accident?

“I think I actually tripped him on that one,” Darcy said, owning the two minutes he spent in the box. “I think I’ve accidentally not had a few too, you know what I mean?”


Darcy said he’s played that way his entire career, from youth hockey to his time at Berwick Academy to the Islanders Hockey Club junior team.

“He plays hard, but definitely relies more on positioning and his skating ability and a good stick than being overly physical. The way the game is played today, if you’re overly physical, they call it. If you hit a guy too hard in our league, they call a penalty. I like the way that he defends, and it’s nice to have him on the ice rather than in the penalty box,” Swallow said.

Against Utica, Darcy and Nor’easters will have to be at their best. The Pioneers lead the nation in power-play efficiency, scoring with the man advantage 35 percent of the time (49 for 140). Utica is second in Division III in scoring, averaging just under six goals per game, and its average margin of victory of 4.5 goals per game is tops in the country.

“I think the most important thing going into the game is going to be our team defense – shutting those guys down on defense is going to be key to us getting the win,” Darcy said.

Staying out of the penalty box will be another key, Swallow said, who also noted that his team might have an edge in a close game. Utica has played only seven games decided by fewer than three goals, and just one since mid-January. The Pioneers received a bye into the quarterfinals after a 7-4 win over Wilkes in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference championship game on March 5.

“Playoff time, there’s a lot of tight, close hockey games. Our last two games have been come-from-behind overtime wins. They’ve been blowing teams out all year. They won a lot of games by seven, eight goals. If it gets to a tight game, maybe an overtime game, our team’s been in a lot of those situations and they haven’t, and that might be a strength for us,” Swallow said.

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