Sophomore goalie Dave Wilson has seen just 23 minutes, nine seconds of action for the University of Maine men’s hockey team this season as Ben Bishop’s backup.
Wilson was called upon down the stretch last season after Bishop was injured and, after stopping 63 of 64 shots in an important sweep of Vermont, he lost his next five games.
He will try to make a statement with a strong performance tonight in an exhibition game against defending Canadian Universities champion University of New Brunswick at Alfond Arena in Orono. Game time is 7.
“This is a big chance to prove myself to my teammates and the fans. I haven’t had a chance to do that this season,” said Wilson, who has appeared in two games and has allowed four goals on 15 shots.
Wilson feels he has improved since last season and is anxious to show it.
“I definitely feel a lot more confident this year. My positioning is better and I’ve been making more saves in practice,” said Wilson, who expects to receive a stern test from the Varsity Reds like the one he received a year ago in a 3-2 overtime triumph.
“I don’t think they played as well as they could have last year,” said Wilson. “They’re definitely a strong team offensively. They’ll give us a lot of trouble. And it’ll be tough because we haven’t seen much of them [on tape].”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he is excited to see Wilson play and noted the Varsity Reds will provide a very good challenge for him.
“They will be as good a team as we’ll play this year. They can go toe-to-toe with any team in this country,” said Whitehead.
“David has improved his practice habits tremendously and I’m confident it will carry into the game,” said Whitehead. “It’s important for him to continue to improve to establish himself as a legitimate option to start and finish games for us.”
Wilson and his mates are also aware that they haven’t won a game since Oct. 27 at Northeastern and even though this game that doesn’t count on their record, it would be good to taste victory again.
Senior center Wes Clark said they have two Hockey East games remaining (Dec. 8 vs. Merrimack and Dec. 16 at New Hampshire) before the Christmas break and they would love to get a win over New Brunswick to gain some confidence and momentum to take into those games.
Whitehead said freshman defenseman Jeff Dimmen (sprained thumb) won’t play, and he will sit out a few veteran role players in order to get his younger players in the lineup.
“I want to take a look at some players who might not normally be in the lineup,” said Whitehead, who also intends to experiment with personnel on his ineffective special teams.
Veazie’s Nick Payson, a redshirt forward, won’t be able to play because redshirts can only play in preseason exhibition games, according to Whitehead.
The Maine coach likes the fact they are playing such a formidable opponent.
“That’s exactly what we need right now. We don’t need a soft game to make us feel better about ourselves. We need a tough challenge to make us better,” said Whitehead.
UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall feels the same way.
“It’ll be a good measuring stick for where we are. It’ll be a real positive experience for our hockey club. The Alfond Arena has an exciting atmosphere. We’ll have our work cut out for us,” said MacDougall.