University of Maine junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin hasn’t given much thought to his unique distinction.
For the third consecutive year, he is the youngest player on the Black Bear hockey team. He is 19 and won’t turn 20 until April 11.
However, he did acknowledge that “It’s kind of cool.”
The 6-foot-7, 221-pound Danis-Pepin also likes the fact the Black Bears are 4-2-1 overall, 2-0-1 in Hockey East, entering this weekend’s home series against Providence College.
And he has been one of the reasons for their success, according to his teammates.
Maine hasn’t allowed more than three goals in a game so far.
“He has grown into his body. He is moving his feet a lot better,” said senior left wing and assistant captain Billy Ryan. “He’s unbelievable in the corners.”
“He has been a lot more consistent this year,” said senior defenseman Bret Tyler.
Danis-Pepin said his primary focus entering the season was becoming “more consistent defensively.”
He said he worked diligently over the summer on improving his quickness and agility with trainer David Arsenault and a bunch of other players including Tampa Bay Lightning All-Star Vincent Lecavalier.
“It has helped out big time,” said Danis-Pepin.
“He is a lot faster and stronger. The biggest difference is his strength on his feet,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He has made very consistent improvement ever since the first day he arrived here [his freshman year]. He trains very hard. He has done a great job preparing himself in the off-season.”
He has also altered his attitude.
Danis-Pepin said he used to lose his confidence if he made a mistake or didn’t play well.
Not this year.
“I treat everything as a learning experience. I don’t get down on myself,” said Danis-Pepin.
“He has a such a good attitude,” said senior defenseman and captain Travis Ramsey. “He loves coming to the rink every day.”
Danis-Pepin, a second round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006, had two goals and nine assists in 63 games his first two seasons.
He has one assist so far this season.
“Points don’t matter to me. I’ve concentrated on my defense,” said Danis-Pepin.
One of the things that helps him is his long reach.
“You may think you have him beat and then he reaches out with his stick [and pokes the puck away],” said Ryan.
Danis-Pepin has had his role expanded this season.
He sees time on the power play and the penalty-killing units.
“He’s a very good penalty-killer. He blocks shots. He’s a tough kid,” said Whitehead.
Danis-Pepin has been satisfied with his performance to date, especially compared to last season.
“There were a lot of things I could have done better last year,” said Danis-Pepin. ‘I’m happy with things so far this season.”
He knows he has a long way to go and said “I’ve just got to keep getting better.”