They have lost undrafted free agents Dustin Penner, Teddy Purcell and Andrew Sweetland after they played just one year at the University of Maine.
So University of Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead and his staff will continue their recent trend to recruit younger players.
Wingers Penner, Purcell and Sweetland were all 21 when they signed with Anaheim, Los Angeles and Florida, respectively. Penner had one year of eligibility remaining while Purcell and Sweetland each had had three left.
Penner signed a lucrative contract with a healthy signing bonus in 2004 before the NHL lockout in the 2004-2005 season. The lockout resulted in a new collective bargaining agreement that greatly reduced the amount of money handed out in signing bonuses.
Signing bonuses now are just 10 percent of a player’s base salary instead of the 50 percent they were before the lockout. So NHL teams don’t have to invest nearly as much money to sign players. That makes them much more willing to gamble on a player.
Maine has had success recruiting older players over the years, but the “landscape of recruiting has changed,” said Whitehead.
“We’re definitely putting more energy into attracting players coming right out of high school, both from the U.S. and Canada,” said Whitehead. “We’ll continue to look for the late [and older] bloomers, guys who have been overlooked, with the understanding that we won’t have them for too long.
“We won’t steer away from them. But we have to make smarter long-term investments and try to attract players we’ll have for more than one season.”
Whitehead said the Bears are squeezed by both NHL teams and the Major Junior programs.
That’s in addition to recruiting against the other college teams.
The Major Junior teams can begin talking to youngsters at any time, while college coaches can’t call a potential recruit until they reach their junior year in high school. And they are only allowed to call them once a month.
However, players and their parents are allowed to call college coaches no matter what age the recruit is.
Once a player signs with a Major Junior team, he is considered a professional and isn’t eligible to play U.S. college hockey.
“Major Junior teams now have a bantam draft [13- and 14-year-olds],” said Whitehead. “College hockey is losing more elite players to Major Junior teams. There are over 100 Americans playing Major Junior hockey this year.”
Whitehead said the signings of Penner, Purcell and Sweetland reflect the fact Maine has had a good track record developing players “so we’ve gotten hit hard” by NHL teams.
Maine has received verbal commitments from three Swedish players for next season.
Whitehead also noted that the NHL teams are less likely to sign a small player, “so it makes a lot of sense to recruit smaller, elite players that you’ll have for an extended period of time.”
College players or potential college players who are drafted by NHL teams belong to those NHL teams until Aug. 15 after their senior years.
Maine men get guarded
The University of Maine men’s basketball team has landed its fourth recruit of the offseason via a verbal commitment from St. Thomas More School guard Doran Mitchell.
Mitchell, the third guard to commit to UMaine either verbally or in writing, is called a “scoring guard who can create his own shot” by New England Recruiting Report (newenglandrecruitingreport.com).
Mitchell hails from Berlin, Conn., and refers to himself as a 6-foot combo guard with a good pull-up jumper and crossover dribble who can put points on the board.
“The coaches [at Maine] have been recruiting me for a long time, so I just felt the most comfortable with them,” Mitchell told NERR.
Pending his acceptance to UMaine and his meeting NCAA Clearinghouse requirements, Mitchell will have four years of college eligibility.
UM women’s soccer signees
University of Maine women’s soccer coach Scott Atherley has received National Letters of Intent from five recruits to play for the Black Bears.
Defender Ashley Drenth of Washingtonville, N.Y., midfielder Alexandra Krous of Yakima, Wash., midfielder-defender Kaitlyn MacIsaac of Bedford, Nova Scotia, and defender Sady Tobin from Paul Smiths, N.Y., will start their collegiate careers in Orono this coming fall. Forward Carolyne Nellis of Quebec City, Quebec, started taking classes last January.
The 5-foot-10 Drenth helped lead Quickstrike FC to the United Soccer League U-20 championship game.
The 5-10 Krous led Walla Walla Community College to two straight conference championships while scoring 35 goals and making 25 assists.
MacIsaac is 5-2 and helped the Connecticut Reds to the 2007 USL U-23 National Championship.
Nellis is 5-9 and one of 11 players picked for the 2007 Canadian College Athletic Association All-Canadian Team.
The 5-9 Tobin helped lead Loomis-Chaffee School to the 2006 Western New England Prep School Soccer Association Championship and the 2007 finals while playing for former UMaine player Heather Hathorn.