Friday, March 23, 2012

NCAA Northeast Regional Notes and Quotes: UMD vs Maine

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The practice sessions have wrapped up at DCU Center, as have the press conferences for each team involved in Saturday's Northeast Regional games, which begin at 4pm Eastern time.

UMD battles Maine at 7:30 Eastern in the second game. Here are some thoughts, starting with Maine.

Maine coach Tim Whitehead on the health of senior and Hobey Baker finalist Spencer Abbott:

"We just have to wait and see if he can get cleared by the doctor. . . Several people have asked me if he’s going to give it a go, but you don’t give it a go with a head injury. It’s whether or not he has been cleared yet, and he has not been cleared yet. We just have to take it day-by-day. It’s been a week now, and I thought we handled the situation well against BU. We were able to bounce right back after three minutes and get the game-winning goal. . . I think the BU game was almost a microcosm of our season with our team. We’ve handled adversity within the game and off the ice with anything that’s thrown at us, and the boys have handled it very well. So I think we’re prepared and now we’ve had a week to adjust to it as well. So I think if he’s not playing we’ll certainly be ready, and if he is that’s just a bonus."

Whitehead on his team's return to the NCAA Tournament:

"It feels great. It’s not about me as a coach or even our staff. We’re part of it of course. We have to try to guide them and I feel we’ve done a good job of that. But in the end it comes from them, and we just are continuing to encourage them to make sure they take ownership of the team and responsibility and do everything they can do. This particular year we’ve focused very much on staying healthy and we’ve altered our training. We’ve done everything we can possibly do to avoid serious injury. For the most part it’s been as good as it’s been. The last couple years were extremes, but that was important for us and we’ve worked hard to improve our goaltending and that was just time. Last year we had two freshmen and a sophomore and they just needed time to develop. They’ve done a great job, and we just focused on blocking out all the people that call themselves faithful and all that chatter, and just focus on us, focus on the locker room. We believe in each other. Coaches believe in the players, players in the coaches, players in each other and that’s all we can do – focus on that. And the guys have been great. I’m just real happy for them because that’s all they care about – what’s going on with our team, and they did it themselves. Now this is a great opportunity for us, and let’s make the most of it. We’re not just here to enjoy the ride, we’re here to win some hockey games. So we have an opportunity tomorrow to prove that we can play with these teams."

Senior forward Brian Flynn on getting back to the NCAA Tournament (Maine's first since 2007):

"It’s exciting. This is definitely something that we wanted to do before graduating here. And to get it in our senior year, and to be put in the bracket with BC who we just lost to in the (Hockey East) championship, and the (reigning) national champions, they’re a great team. We know we have our hands full and it’s a challenge we’re excited for."

Whitehead on his seniors:

"It’s a great feeling for them. We’re very proud of them. Obviously they’ve persevered through some very tough challenges, last season in particular. We felt we had a team that could get to the tournament the last two years and they never quit. And we’ve been on the doorstep for two years in a row and this is the third year that we’ve been on the bubble, so I’m really happy for them mostly that they’ve found a way to fight through all of that stuff and get to the tournament and have this opportunity. We’re very proud of them."

UMD coach Scott Sandelin on how he prepares his team for this game:

"We tend to try to focus on our team and what we need to do. For us, we have a lot of respect for their program and their team and how hard they're going to work. Getting off to a good start is really critical for us. Obviously, last Friday that didn't happen, and we dug a hole. Playing catchup hockey this time of year is kind of death."

UMD senior captain and Hobey Baker finalist Jack Connolly on what older brother Chris, the captain of Boston University, told him about Maine, a Hockey East rival:

"I picked his brain a little bit about the team. Obviously he’s played them quite a bit. He said they have a lot of speed, but I think we can get after their defense and capitalize on their weaknesses. They’ve been playing pretty good as of late and that’s an aspect of the team you can get after as well. I think we have a lot of speed on our team and will be able to work their team down low and will have to try and get some goals around the crease."

UMD senior defenseman Brady Lamb on his team's success on the road:

"The biggest thing we try and do is make sure our home is a tough place to play. We also like to put pressure on the other teams when we go to their place. Being on the road gives our team more chances to come together and unite a little tighter. We have a lot of fun on the road and I think that transfers to our team chemistry, and we have a lot of guys working for each other out there."

UMD senior center Travis Oleksuk on the season thus far:

"It’s been a long year, (we’ve) played a lot of games out, had a lot of ups and downs like any team has. Right now we’re feeling good about how we’re playing and real excited to get things started on Saturday and looking forward to try and have some success out here."

Sandelin on Connolly:

"Everyone thought he was too small, kind of that stigma I think we’ve heard with a lot of different college players. I think he’s fought that all the way. He’s a good athlete, a good hockey player. It was an easy decision for us. I’ll be honest with you, when we recruited him my biggest fear was that we had to tell him he was going to play two years of junior hockey, and I didn’t think we were going to get him. It took about five minutes for the commitment, and we got him in after one year at Sioux Falls and not two. He went to juniors under the understanding he was going to play two years – and that was my biggest fear, he’d say no, I want to come after one year, and we’re fortunate we got him. As good a hockey player (as) he is, he is a better person. He’s been a great ambassador for our program and our community."

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