The University of Maine men’s hockey team opens its season on the road against Denver this weekend and the goaltending situation is up in the air.
Junior Ben Bishop, who missed the 5-3 exhibition win over the United States’ Under-18 National Team Development Program’s squad with a leg strain, said he thinks he’ll be “ready to go” and backup Dave Wilson said he’s confident he can get the job done in case Bishop can’t play.
Coach Tim Whitehead said it will be a “game time decision.”
“It feels good. It has felt better every day,” said Bishop, who wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of his injury other than to say “it’s not a pull or anything serious.”
Bishop suffered the strain in practice and said he reinjured it “jumping onto the ice” for the pregame warmups against the Under-18 team Saturday night.
“Next time I won’t jump as high,” grinned Bishop, who has posted a 42-17-4 record, a 2.14 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in his first two seasons.
Wilson made 20 saves against the Under-18 team and said he gained confidence from his performance.
“I felt I did pretty well. I communicated a lot and I handled the puck pretty well,” said Wilson. “I would have liked to have had two of those goals back, the two wraparounds, but I’ve worked on that in practice this week and I feel real confident with that now.”
Wilson, who is a sophomore, filled in for the injured Bishop last year and won two crucial games at home over Vermont, stopping 63 of 64 shots en route to Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors. However, he was winless on the road and finished with a 2-6 record, a 3.12 GAA and an .893 save percentage.
He said he will take the same mentality into road games that he takes into home games.
“I want to try to help the team get ahead in the first and second periods and focus on making the next save,” said Wilson.
If Bishop can’t play, Whitehead and the Bear players are optimistic that Wilson can get the job done.
“He’s better than he was last year,” said Whitehead with senior defenseman and captain Travis Ramsey in agreement.
“We’re pretty confident in our goaltending situation,” said Ramsey.
“[Wilson] came in on short notice against the Under-18 team and had a good game,” said Maine senior right wing Rob Bellamy.
“Both of them look real good in practice,” said senior left wing Billy Ryan.
Bishop said he loves the challenge of playing national caliber teams on the road.
“It’s just as much fun as playing in the Frozen Four. Going out west to play against the big schools in their big arenas is something special. It’s fun to play against top-ranked teams,” said Bishop, who doesn’t feel the altitude will come into play.
“Our guys trained hard all summer for this, so I don’t think it will play a factor,” said Bishop.
It will be a homecoming for Maine freshman defenseman Jeff Dimmen, who is from Colorado Springs.
“I’m pretty excited. I’ve dreamed about playing there. I’ll have a lot of family and hometown people there,” said Dimmen.
Both teams are young and that could lead to some interesting situations, according to Denver coach George Gwozdecky, whose Pioneers went 21-15-4 and missed the NCAA Tournament last year.