Swift-skating offensive defenseman Kevin Gagne has become the third University of Maine recruit to renege on his verbal commitment in favor of playing Major Junior hockey.
Gagne, a native of Edmunston, New Brunswick, recently signed a five-year deal with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Earlier this year, Austin Watson, a winger who played for the Detroit Compuware Midget team coached by former Maine winger Todd Jenkins, signed with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
Gagne and Watson were both second-round draft picks in their respective leagues.
Gagne and Watson were going to join the Black Bears in the fall of 2010.
Last year, center Mike Catenacci decided to renege on his verbal commitment to UMaine and joined the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. However, he played in just two games for Kitchener and returned to play junior hockey.
Since Catenacci stayed beyond the 48-hour training camp grace period, he lost his college eligibility.
The same will be true for Gagne and Watson.
“It’s a shame,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “But the Canadian Hockey League [which governs the three Major Junior leagues] doesn’t have any rules and we have very restrictive rules as far as recruiting players is concerned.
“It’s very difficult to compete with them particularly when the kids live in Major Junior market areas. It’s tough for these kids to be patient,” added Whitehead. “However, we have been able to snag some elite players from all three of those areas: the Maritimes, Michigan and Ontario and all three areas will continue to be good recruiting grounds for us.”
Since Major Junior players receive money and are viewed as professional athletes by the NCAA, they lose their eligibility beyond the 48-hour window.
Catenacci, who was going to begin his college career in 2009, could petition the NCAA to regain his eligibility but, even if he is successful, he would have to sit out one full season and the number of games he appeared in the following year (2).
Maine has had several players go that route, including former standout goalie Frank Doyle and defenseman Prestin Ryan.
Teddy Purcell, the Hockey East Rookie of the Year two years ago, and Andrew Sweetland, who was Maine’s top-scoring freshman this past season, both passed up Major Junior opportunities to play at Maine.
Purcell signed a free-agent contract with Los Angeles after his freshman year and made his NHL debut this past season. Sweetland signed a free-agent deal with Florida after the season.
Gagne had 30 goals and 72 assists in 48 games for Rothesay Netherwood (New Brunswick) and Watson had 45 & 104 in 75 games for Compuware.
Whitehead said the Catenacci situation is an unfortunate one.
“He played two games for Kitchener and it cost him a scholarship and a chance to play pro hockey by going the college route,” said Whitehead. “I hope [Gagne and Watson] don’t wind up regretting their decisions.”
UM field hockey class announced
Two former Mount View of Thorndike standouts, forward Molly Arute and midfielder Elizabeth Lincoln, along with goalie Elizabeth Anderson of Belfast High, are among the nine players who have committed to play for the University of Maine field hockey team this fall, head coach Josette Babineau announced Thursday.
Five of the other players are from Canada, and three – goalie Brittany Fleck, midfielder Stephanie Gardiner and forward Kelly Newton – all attended the Crofton House School in Vancouver, British Columbia. Also from Canada are midfielder Ellen Andrews of New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island, and forward Jocelyn Mitchell of Kanata, Ontario. The final recruit is midfielder Courtney Glynn of Hampton, N.H.
“After graduating such a big class this year, it was very important to bring in players with experience,” Babineau said. “Some of these players played nationally and internationally, which will help them adapt quickly to the level of play. This class will help us in all areas of the field, particularly in goal and on the forward line.”
Anderson, an all-state selection, helped lead Belfast to three consecutive state Class B titles, compiling a 54-0 record in the process.
Arute is a first-team All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference selection and was a member of the Maine Event team for three years, while Lincoln was a three-time captain for Mount View where she was named to the Maine Field Hockey Coaches Association All-State team as a senior.
Andrews was a captain at the University of Prince Edward Island and a conference rookie of the year, while Fleck started every game her senior season in net for Crofton and allowed only one goal.
Gardiner was a captain for Crofton, leading the team to two regional championships. Glyyn was named to New Hamphire’s 2007 All-State and Twin State teams and was a New England All-American selection.
Mitchell was a two-year captain for the Earl of March Secondary where she helped lead the team to three straight city runner-up finishes. Newton, a captain for Crofton, helped her team win two provincial championships.
The players’ commitment to Maine is contingent upon their acceptance into the school and meeting NCAA Clearinghouse requirements.