Bret Tyler has never backed down from a challenge and he isn’t about to start now.
The University of Maine senior defenseman knows his men’s hockey team needs to find ways to compensate for the loss of players who scored nearly 68 percent of the Bears’ goals last season and he’s ready to do his part to fill the void.
Tyler scored Maine’s only goal last weekend in its 2-0 and 3-1 losses at Denver.
Maine will play its home openers tonight and Saturday night against Atlantic Hockey’s Mercyhurst College (Pa.).
Tyler’s goal gave him 20 goals and 50 assists in 111 career games. He has been Maine’s top-scoring defenseman all three years.
“I consider myself an offensive defenseman and I definitely want to contribute this year,” said Tyler. “Like Coach [Tim Whitehead] always says, as you get older, your role expands and I feel my role has expanded this year.”
“I’m hoping to be a leader on and off the ice and the way to do that is to play hard and be a role model to the younger players,” added Tyler.
He noted players such as John Ronan, Troy Barnes and Ben Murphy were great leaders when he first came to Maine and had a positive influence on his career.
The 5-foot-8, 196-pounder said he is confident the team will improve as several freshmen get more experience.
“A lot of freshmen played their first college games last weekend and that wasn’t an easy place to do it. I thought they all played great,” said Tyler. “As long as everyone plays our systems, we’ll be all set. And we can’t take any shifts off.”
Tyler has been bothered by nagging injuries throughout his career but said he feels great right now.
“I’ve been working hard with strength and conditioning coach Terry O’Neill and he’s been doing an excellent job,”
The seniors are looking forward to their final home opener but know they will have their hands full with a Mercyhurst team that tied them 1-1 in Portland last year.
“Playing in front of these crowds has been awesome. It has been one of the best experiences of my life. I can’t wait to get started,” said Tyler.
“We always thrive off the fans’ energy,” said senior right wing Rob Bellamy.
“Playing my last home openers isn’t as important as getting a couple of wins out of the weekend,” said senior left wing Billy Ryan.
Senior defenseman and captain Travis Ramsey said Mercyhurst gave them a real good battle last year “and I guarantee you they’ve improved this year.”
Lakers coach Rick Gotkin and his players are looking forward to the challenge.
“This is a great opportunity to play in a great venue against a team that is one of the nation’s best year in and year out,” said Gotkin. “We’ll need to be very good in our end and good on special teams. We’ll also need good goaltending.”
“We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box and capitalize on our power plays,” said senior center Ben Cottreau, who scored the goal last season.
“Scoring the first goal is going to be big for us again this year,” added senior left wing Ryan Toomey. “Hopefully, we’ll score first again and take it from there.”
Mercyhurst scored first in last year’s tie.