Catching Up With ... Peter Metcalf
One Year Later, Former Maine Captain Gets His Championship
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The voice has gone, but has not been silenced.
"Metcalf, move your feet, move your feet."
It's a sound that echoes in Peter Metcalf's ears every time he steps on the ice.
Shawn Walsh passed away almost two years ago, but he lives on in the heads of many who played for him, guiding them, encouraging them.
"I still put his initials on my stick. He was like a second father to me. A great mentor," says Metcalf, the defenseman who graduated Maine last spring.
It was the sound Metcalf, now as a member of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, heard throughout the East Coast Hockey League playoffs, which culminated last week in a Kelly Cup championship. The team included former Black Bear teammate Matt Yeats, and numerous other recent collegiate players, such as former Brown goalie Scott Sterling, J.F. Caudron (Vermont), Steve Munn and Jim Henkel (RPI), Mike Nicholishin (Mass.-Lowell) and Scott Matzka (Michigan).
The thrill of winning a championship comes just over a year since Maine's devastating loss in the NCAA championship game last year, a defeat which came on a power-play goal in overtime to Minnesota. As champagne flowed in the Atlantic City locker room, Metcalf felt some relief from last year's heartache.
"Definitely. I won't stop thinking about last year, but it does take some of the sting away."
Metcalf's sting from last year was a little higher than most, the captain and leader on a team riding on an emotional wave.
Beyond the euphoria of simply playing for a national championship, the emotion going into that game was already high, with Maine having dedicated the season to Walsh after he died from the effects of kidney cancer the prior September. Losing on a controversial power play in overtime just ratcheted up the emotional level.
In the postgame press conference, Metcalf made stinging criticisms of the officials, remarks which led to the university being fined by the NCAA. Metcalf, among other things, questioned whether the officials had it "in for" Maine, and suggested the NCAA should have been smarter than to assign the same official to that game as had ejected Walsh from his last-ever game, one year earlier.
Maine's new coach, Tim Whitehead, excused Metcalf for getting caught up in the emotion, but one year later, the feelings have barely changed.
"It had to be said," Metcalf insists. "Coach couldn't say it because his job was still on the line for next year. They couldn't do anything to me.
"I stand behind what I said. It wasn't so much the call, it was that there could've been a makeup call on their goalie."
That kind of emotion propelled Metcalf into this season, when he signed with the Boston Bruins organization and played primarily for their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. But in the middle of the season, he was sent down to Atlantic City for some work.
It was another emotional time.
"When I first came down here, I was bitter," says Metcalf, who had six points this season for Providence in 40 games. "I want to play in the 'A' like everyone else. But the [Atlantic City] coach sat me down and he said they want me here, and they know they can win. So when I came down the next time, I felt a lot better about it. I was focused on winning the championship, and improving my game for next year."
And win a championship they did, with Metcalf spearheading a stingy defense, and scoring 10 points in 19 playoff games. He hopes it's enough to impress the AHL people.
"Right now, I just want to take it easy and let my body heal," says Metcalf, who won an NCAA championship as a freshman in 1999. "In college, you play 30 or 40 games. In the pros, it's 80-90-100 games. So I need to settle down and take a break. The NHL is still my dream, of course. I'd like a chance to win a championship at every level."
Metcalf still keeps in touch with the Maine program, speaking to Whitehead every few weeks. He thinks the Maine program is in good hands.
"He definitely deserves it," says Metcalf of Whitehead being named Walsh's permanent successor. "He's a great coach.
"And as long as [assistant coach] Grant [Standbrook] stays there, it will be good. It's a great program with tremendous fan support. It doesn't matter, even if they had a losing record next year, the fans would stay behind them."
Yeats shares many of Metcalf's sentiments, especially that of putting last year behind him.
"This takes the sting right out," says Yeats, who was the backup goalie in the playoffs. "It's what we should've done last year. To come back and win it in pro hockey is pretty special."
Yeats also keeps Walsh close, with his initials on his goalie helmet.
"He is a part of my life and a huge part of my career," Yeats says. "We missed [the championship] last year, so this one's for him."