Ten years ago, Nate Leaman’s college coaching career began at the University of Maine, where he served as a graduate assistant coach under the late Shawn Walsh.
Now, for the first time since his one year with the Black Bears, the Dutchmen head coach returns to Orono, Maine. Union (8-5-1) plays a two-game series against Maine (8-5-1) at Alfond Arena, starting tonight at 7.
During Leaman’s year at Maine, the Black Bears won the 1999 NCAA title. After that year, Leaman was hired as an assistant coach at Harvard by Mark Mazzoleni. He was at Harvard for four seasons before becoming Union’s head coach in the summer of 2003.
The Crimson played the Black Bears twice while Leaman was at Harvard, but neither game was in Orono. Harvard and Maine met in the first round of the 2002 NCAA tournament in Worcester, Mass., and had a game the following season in Portland, Maine.
Getting a chance to go back to Orono will be special for Leaman.
“It’s a special place,” Leaman said. “We won a national championship up there. Obviously, those emotions will come back, and I’ll get to see some people I haven’t seen in a long time. That’ll be special.”
Leaman recalled the time he worked with Walsh, who died in September 2001 after a year-long battle with renal cell carcinoma, a rare form of cancer.
“Shawn was a passionate person,” Leaman said. “It was a great learning experience for me because was so adamant about the details of the game with the players. We were also blessed because we had very good leadership on the team between Steve Kariya and Dave Cullen. But working with Shawn, and [assistant coaches] Grant [Standbrook] and Gene Riley was special. It was a great introduction because those three guys were such good coaches. Winning the national championship that year showed why all the little details matter.
“You had to be sharp in practice, both as a player and as an assistant coach. There was more than one occasion that [Walsh] snapped at the assistants like he snapped at players. You had to be sharp all the time. I think that was good. When you go out on the ice, it’s business. You need to accomplish things, and guys have to be focused.”
Leaman doesn’t want the emotions of seeing old friends distract from what is most important to him — winning two games and having a good feeling heading into the Christmas break. The Dutchmen have played well in non-conference games this season, posting a 6-1-1 record.
“We’re kind of viewing it more of a business trip,” Leaman said. “We’re going up there to play hockey and compete for four points.”
Maine leads the all-time series, 5-0, including 3-0 in Division I play. This the first meeting between the two schools since Oct. 24, 1998, a 6-1 Maine win. . . .
The Black Bears, who are tied for fifth place in Hockey East with Boston University, are led by freshman goalie Scott Darling, who is 6-3-1 with a 1.49 goals-against
average, a .941 save percentage and two shuouts. Freshman forward Gustav Nyquist is Maine’s leading scorer with seven goals and six assists. . . .
The Union women are also heading to Maine for a two-game series this weekend. The Dutchwomen face the Black Bears at 2 p.m. today and Saturday.
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Categories: College Sports