ORONO – When the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad walked into the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena, USA defenseman Ryan Hegarty said several of his teammates complained about how cold it was.
“Kelen [Corkum] and I just looked at each other saying ‘This is awesome,” grinned Hegarty who, like Corkum, will attend the University of Maine. “I’ve never played on ice so hard. The puck moves so quickly. It’s great.”
Hegarty will come to Maine next fall and Corkum will either join him or come in the fall of 2009.
Both are excited about facing the Black Bears tonight at 7.
“I’ve been waiting for this for two months,” said Hegarty. “I came up to see a game against Merrimack and the crowd was nuts. I couldn’t believe how hyped-up the crowd was. I can’t wait to play on that ice.”
Corkum has been looking forward to the game since last summer when he verbally committed to Maine.
“My dad [former Bear standout winger Bob Corkum] told me how great it was to play up here. He told me how nuts the fans are and how great the community is. I’m psyched to play here,” said the young center, who has two assists in seven games. “You look around and see all the banners. It’s a nice rink with a lot of history behind it.”
His father helped create that history as Bob Corkum played on Maine’s first three NCAA Tournament teams beginning in the 1986-87 season. Maine has been to 17 NCAA Tournaments including nine straight.
Both said they know they will have their hands full with the Black Bears.
“I’m sure the jump [from playing junior teams to playing Maine] will be very big. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the team. I know it’s going to be tough. But we’re definitely ready,” said Hegarty, who has two goals and two assists in seven games.
USA head coach John Hynes said both players have made significant strides after playing for the Under-17 team a year ago.
“They’ve both come a long way. Hegarty came back in great shape this fall. He’s playing with more poise and confidence. He’s a good puck distributor who plays with an edge,” said Hynes, who played at Boston University and is assisted by 1994 U.S. Olympic Team coach Tim Taylor. “Kelen is a very good center, a gritty kid who plays both sides of the puck very well.”
Even thought it’s an exhibition game, it will be very important for the Black Bears, especially their 10 freshmen, since it will be their only tune-up before next weekend’s openers at Denver.
Roster spots are up for grabs.
“You want to make a good impression and show what you can do out there,” said freshman left wing Andrew Sweetland.
“It’s a great opportunity to show the coaches and the fans that we can play here,” said winger Lem Randall.
Sweetland, Randall and fellow freshmen Keif Orsini, Tanner House and Mike Banwell said it will be important for them to keep things simple and play to their strengths rather than try to do too much and get caught out of position.
Tickets are still available and can be obtained at the ticket office beginning an hour before the game.