ORONO – Nobody would have blamed Jeff Marshall if he decided to transfer from the University of Maine after last season.
He had played in just 19 games in his first two hockey seasons and wasn’t guaranteed any playing time this season. He hadn’t registered a point.
But Maine volunteer assistant coach Grant Standbrook encouraged him to return and Marshall has had a breakthrough year as an effective role player.
The Kyle, Saskatchewan, native is one of only six Black Bears to have played in all 22 games and he has three goals and five assists. He has a game-winning goal and has assisted on two other game-winners while also playing an important role on Maine’s vastly improved penalty-killing units.
Marshall and the Bears invade UMass Lowell tonight and Massachusetts on Saturday night for two crucial Hockey East games.
“Grant told me a lot of guys didn’t play much their first year or two but stuck it out and became contributors. If I left to go somewhere else, I always would have wondered if I could have made it,” said Marshall.
Following his freshman year Marshall, a forward, thought he was going to be moved to defense. So he spent the summer bulking up and improving his strength in preparation for the position change.
“My foot speed and quickness took a hit,” said Marshall, who wound up remaining on the wing but was limited to just 11 games due to his speed deficiency.
Knowing he would return as a winger, Marshall addressed his speed issue this past summer.
“I did a lot more running and drills to help my speed. I tried to get as fast as I could,” said Marshall, whose workouts paid dividends.
“I’m really proud of Jeff. He dropped a lot of body fat and came back to camp in the best shape of his life,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead, who has moved Marshall to center.
“I’m just happy to be in the lineup every day,” said Marshall. “After two years of sitting out, I try not to take anything for granted. I try to contribute any way I can because I know I can always be taken out of the lineup.”
Marshall’s role on the team is that of a defensive center and penalty-killing specialist. Any offense he can provide is gravy.
“I’m not expected to be a big offensive contributor, so I focus on playing solid defense and doing things like blocking shots,” said Marshall. “But it feels good to contribute offensively once in a while.”
“He does a great job. He plays his role really well,” said Maine junior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin. “He works hard and sets the tone for us.”
“He’s a great kid off the ice and good things happen to good people,” said Maine senior defenseman Bret Tyler. “It would have been easy for him to pack it in after his first two seasons, but he worked his tail off in the offseason and it’s paying off for him.”
Whitehead said Marshall does a “great job killing penalties” and he sets a “great example with his work ethic and dedication to the team.”
He also noted Marshall is versatile as he has played center, both wings and defense.
Marshall said the Bears will be eager to avenge a 6-0 loss to UMass Lowell in the Florida College Classic final in December and four losses to UMass last season.
“The 6-0 loss is fresh on our minds and the four losses to UMass were a hit to our pride. We’ve going to have to play two gritty road games and do the little things right. Hopefully, it’ll transfer into wins,” said Marshall.