The adjustment from junior hockey to college hockey is a significant one.
And the transition one of college hockey’s best leagues is that much more difficult.
University of Maine freshman left winger Robby Dee has been a goal scorer his entire career. He had 49 goals and 38 assists in 28 games during his senior year at the Breck School (Minn.) and was a finalist for Mr. Hockey in Minnesota.
He spent two injury-marred seasons with Omaha in the challenging United States Hockey League before coming to Maine. He had 11 goals and 14 assists in 33 games for the Lancers last season.
Dee will be looking for his first collegiate point on Sunday afternoon against the University of Vermont’s Catamounts.
He has 19 shots on goal in 10 games.
It’s not that Dee hasn’t been useful.
“The reason he has stayed in the lineup is he hasn’t cost us defensively. He has been very clean [defensively],” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He hustles back [on the backcheck]. He can skate with anybody.”
Whitehead uses Dee on the penalty kill and admitted that Dee has “surprised us” with his solid play while the Bears have been shorthanded.
“He has good hands and he does a good job getting to loose pucks and icing them,” said Whitehead. “He plays angles well.”
In fact, Whitehead pointed out that the one game Dee has missed, the 1-1 tie at Boston College on Nov. 2, was because of an injury he suffered blocking a shot in a 4-3 win over Northeastern in the previous game.
Dee said he is “trying to work hard every day in practice and doing whatever I can to help the team out.”
To try to snap out of his slump, he has been “working on the little things.”
Whitehead said he has seen positive signs that indicate Dee is ready to break out.
“He has been scoring goals in practice. Scoring in practice is the first step. I’m confident he’ll start scoring,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said Dee “moves the puck well and has good hands” and added that he has put him on the second power-play unit for Sunday’s game.
He has seen power-play minutes earlier this season.
Dee said the adjustment to college hockey has taken time.
“The USHL is a good league, but college hockey is faster and the players are a lot stronger. It’s hard to knock them off the puck,” said Dee.
Dee said he and his mates will be looking to bear down and create more scoring chances than they’ve been able to generate during their current 0-4-1 streak.
Coach Kevin Sneddon’s Catamounts showed exceptional resiliency bouncing back from a humbling 9-1 home loss to Boston University on Friday night to beat BU 5-4 on Saturday and Massachusetts 4-2 on Tuesday.
“We played with a lot of energy [in the wins]. This will be a great challenge,” said Sneddon, who anticipates a physical, close-checking battle Sunday.
Maine and Vermont have combined for five goals or fewer in four of their last six games.