ORONO – The University of Maine hockey team has added a goalie who will be eligible sometime next January.
Matt Yeats, a 6-foot, 170-pounder from Innisfail, Alberta, joined the team last week soon after playing in the Viking Cup Tournament in Alberta from Dec. 27-Jan. 4.
He started four of five games in the tourney for the Alberta Junior Hockey League All-Star select team. Yeats had been playing for the Olds Grizzlies in the AJHL as he had a year ago.
His Alberta selects finished second.
“He was exceptional in the tournament. He proved himself,” said Maine assistant and recruiting coordinator Grant Standbrook. “He’s very quick and he competes. He’s an athlete who has good balance after the initial save.”
Standbrook said the tournament was heavily scrutinized by college recruiters and pro scouts and was close to being the caliber of a World Junior tourney.
The 18-year-old Yeats said he had had heard a lot of good things about Maine.
“A lot of people in the community and friends who knew people who had played at Maine said those players really enjoyed playing here. I felt this would be the best place for me,” he said.
Yeats will be a sophomore next season because he played 20 minutes for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western [Major Junior A] Hockey League two years ago. Major Junior players must sit out one year plus the number of games they played in.
Yeats said he heard from a lot of college recruiters after the Viking Cup.
He said his first week at Maine went well last week.
“I really enjoyed the school and all the players were really good to me. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I can’t wait to start playing again,” said Yeats who found Standbrook to be quite knowledgable after working with him.
Yeats thought it would be best to start school now instead of in the fall.
“I can start taking the step up [to college hockey] now and get my feet wet. Then I’ll be able to play next January,” said Yeats.
Current Maine starting goalie Alfie Michaud will be a junior next year and Standbrook said they will bring in another goalie next fall.
Former Bear backup Bryan Masotta was suspended from school for a year for his role in making a death threat, racial slur phone call to Maine football player Dwayne Wilmot last month. Masotta was found guilty of criminal threatening.
Maine has significantly improved its team defense, holding three teams rated in the Top 6 in the U.S. College Hockey On-Line poll to 14 goals over the last five games. But the Bears, 0-4-1 in those five, have managed just six goals and only two of those were even-strength goals.
Maine’s current defense corps has scored only three even-strength goals all season and eight overall, seven by David Cullen, but that trend may change according to senior defenseman and tri-captain Brian White.
“Early in the year, we wanted to make sure we did the job in our own zone first. We have a young defense. Now that we’re playing well enough defensively, we need to get involved in the offense to help the forwards. It’s so hard to score in college hockey. By jumping into the offense a little bit more, it might complete our game,” said White.
Sophomore right wing Cory Larose said the forwards didn’t play well defensively early in the season, forcing the defensemen to play more cautiously.
“Now the forwards are starting to work a lot harder defensively and, hopefully, that will lead to the defensemen jumping up into the O,” said Larose. “We’ve got some offensive-minded defensemen who are capable of doing it. Hopefully, we’ll get a little more production from our defense. Anything we get from them [offensively] is a great boost.”
Not surprisingly, Maine’s two incoming defensemen, Doug Janik and Peter Metcalf, are offensive-minded.
“And we’re going to bricoach Shawn Walsh. “That’s where the loss of [Jeff] Libby and [Jason] Mansoff has really been felt. None of the defensemen except Cullen has stepped up offensively. That puts too much pressure on our forwards.”
Libby and Mansoff combined for 17 goals and 60 points a year ago.