Travis Ramsey said it’s still hard to believe the University of Maine men’s hockey season is over after the Bears’ 5-1 finish wasn’t good enough to earn the Bears the eighth and final seed for the Hockey East playoffs. It also ended Maine’s string of nine consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.
But the Black Bears’ senior captain and defenseman and junior goalie Ben Bishop will begin their pro careers today.
Ramsey has signed a contract with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, the Vancouver Canucks’ top affiliate, and Bishop has signed with the St. Louis Blues.
Bishop, who is from the St. Louis suburb of Des Peres, Mo., was drafted in the third round by the Blues (85th overall) in 2005. He is being assigned to the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen.
Ramsey was an undrafted free agent and said he signed an AHL contract with Manitoba through next season.
He didn’t receive a signing bonus and will make in the vicinity of $50,000 per year.
His first games will be in Hershey, Pa., Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
Bishop signed a Player Tryout contract for the rest of this season before his two-way contract with the Blues kicks in on July 1.
“It’s a bit surreal. I still can’t believe our season is over. But I’m pretty excited about this,” said Ramsey from Winnipeg, where he will participate in his first practice today.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Ramsey, who had his best season this year with four goals and eight assists in 34 games, said he never anticipated getting a chance to play pro hockey after choosing hockey over water polo in high school.
“My whole goal was just to play college hockey,” said Ramsey, a native of Lakewood, Calif. “Anything after that was icing on the cake.”
“This opportunity has come about and we’ll see how far I can take it,” said Ramsey, who finished with 6 & 23 in 134 career games.
“They know I’m not an offensive force. They aren’t going to expect me to put goals on the board, although it would be nice. I know my role is to play good defense, be tough to play against and make a good first [breakout] pass. I want to use my size to my advantage and be a physical presence if I can,” added Ramsey.
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Bishop said it was a “tough decision” to leave Maine because it’s a “wonderful place” and he thoroughly enjoyed his coaches, his teammates, the fans and the school.
“But this is the next stage and I’m ready to make the jump,” said Bishop. “I’m excited.”
He said he was told he’s going to play Friday night in Milwaukee and he plans to concentrate on “just stopping the puck. I’m not going to worry about anything else. They told me they liked the way I played down the stretch and they don’t want me to change anything.”
Bishop was 5-3 with a 1.60 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage over his last eight games.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Ramsey “really emerged as an elite player at the collegiate level. He’s always been great defensively and he’s emerged in an offensive way this season. He’s a great pro prospect.”
Whitehead said Bishop is “certainly ready to take the next step and face a new challenge. Ben is playing great hockey right now and is healthy. The timing is pretty good.”
Both will finish their academic curriculums, they said.
Bishop finished with a career record of 55-35-7 to go with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. He will leave with the school’s second most career saves (2,399), the third most games played (99), the third-best save percentage and the fourth-lowest GAA.