Freshman Lem Randall of the University of Maine men’s hockey team doesn’t have any trepidation about getting his nose dirty in front of an opposing net.
After all, it isn’t nearly as dangerous as his summer job: fighting forest fires in his native Manitoba. He is from Snow Lake, which is 423 miles north of Winnipeg.
The hard-nosed right winger has spent the last three summers fighting fires.
“I love it except when we’re in the bushes for 10 days. It would be nice to be able to take a shower,” said Randall, who will try to help the Black Bears upset Providence College starting at 7 p.m. tonight in Providence.
“I enjoy being outside and being with my buddies. It’s like a team,” said Randall.
The rules of thumb in fighting a forest fire, according to Randall, are “attack from the back and [attack] when it’s small.”
Randall attacks opponents with the same passion he attacks fires.
His checks are bone-rattling and he finishes them all over the ice.
“I’ve played that way since the age when they allowed hitting,” said Randall. “I enjoy that part of the game. It’s like scoring a goal for me. It gets the fans pumped up and it gets the bench pumped up.”
He added that an energized crowd “gets you pumped up.”
Randall is also getting his name on the score sheet these days.
He didn’t have a point in his first nine games, but he scored his first goal in a 4-2 win over RPI two weekends ago and notched an assist on linemate Keif Orsini’s first-ever goal in the Bears’ 3-1 loss to Boston University last Saturday.
Maine senior left wing and assistant captain Billy Ryan compared Randall to teammate Rob Bellamy.
“He’s a big, strong guy who plays with a lot of emotion,” said Ryan.
Randall said he’s playing with more confidence these days.
“I’m making plays a little quicker and I’m chipping the puck off the glass,” said Randall. “Things are going pretty well. [Linemates] Keif Orsini and Robby Dee are easy to play with. We’re clicking.”
He knows his line will take on a more important role because the Bears will be without five injured forwards.
“When you have injuries, you look to the [third and fourth lines] to step up,” said Randall.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Randall’s improvement over the season has been impressive.
“He has lowered his body fat and improved his muscle mass,” said Whitehead. “That has enable him to quicken his step so he’s getting to more loose pucks now. He also has a good scoring touch. He’s got a quick release on his shot.”
“I’m very proud of his progress,” added Whitehead. “He’s a hard-working kid who has been a consistent physical presence. You need those types of players. They create space for their linemates.”
Even though Maine has lost three of its last four, Providence coach Tim Army expects a tussle.
“Maine is battle-tested and they’ve always been a good second-half team,” said Army.