Jim Montgomery, the former University of Maine two-time men’s hockey All-American, is looking forward to his return to Maine on Sunday.
Montgomery, the school’s all-time leading scorer with 301 points (103 goals, 198 assists) in 170 games, is in his second year as an assistant coach at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), and the two teams will square off at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland at 2.
“It’ll be nice to go back and see some friendly faces,” said Montgomery, who was en route to the RPI campus Thursday after a 10-day recruiting junket. “It was always nice to play in Portland as a player. Going back, for me personally, it would have been nicer going to Orono.”
“But it’ll be fun,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery, a Hobey Baker Award finalist in 1993 when he captained the Black Bears to their first NCAA championship, began his coaching career four years ago.
“I was a player-assistant coach with the Missouri River Otters in the now-defunct United Hockey League,” said Montgomery. “I was trying to see if I really wanted to be a coach, and they offered me an opportunity. I already had a home in St. Louis.”
He enjoyed his experience and joined former Lake Superior State coach Jeff Jackson as a volunteer assistant at Notre Dame the following year.
“I enjoy every part of coaching. It’s the second best thing to playing,” said Montgomery, who played pro hockey from 1993-2003 and appeared in 122 NHL games with five teams. “I love recruiting, I love teaching, I love the practices. I try to help Seth [head coach Seth Appert] and Shawn [assistant Shawn Kurulak] any way I can.
“RPI is a great place to work and a great place to live,” added the 38-year-old Montgomery, who had his number retired at Maine in 1994 and was inducted into the Maine Hall of Fame four years later.
He said the biggest difference between coaching and playing is “instead of just having to worry about yourself, you have to worry about 25 guys. You may only have 20 dressed one night, but you’ve got to make sure the other five or six are ready in case you need them the next night.”
Montgomery will never forget his experience at Maine and tries to keep up with the team’s progress.
“I always look to see how they’ve done. I did throughout my [professional] playing career,” said Montgomery. “All of the alums take pride in how the program has done. [Maine coach Tim Whitehead] has done a great job carrying on what [the late Shawn Walsh] did. You can’t take the pride of wearing that jersey out of your system.”
He also said that the bond is a lasting one among all former Black Bear players.
“Even if you don’t know each other from Adam, that common bond is you represented the university and the state with class and you were a part of the winning tradition,” said Montgomery.
The Engineers have been a nice success story this season, entering the game at 8-9-3 after going 10-18-8 a year ago.
“I like our team. I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think our players expect to win instead of hoping to win,” said Montgomery.