Maine Rises to Challenge
by Matt Conyers/CHN Reporter
ROCHESTER, N.Y. Every Tuesday night at 9 p.m., the Discovery channel has a show on entitled "Dirty Jobs."
The host is named Mike Rowe. For those that favor at-times messy and often unglamorous professions, itís their kind of program.
Next week, however, Discovery might be better suited if they give the job to Maineís gritty group of upperclassmen.
On Friday, anchored by a tenacious performance from senior Brent Shepheard, the crew made up of forwards Rob Bellamy, Keith Johnson, and Wes Clark, not only help shock St. Cloud State with an authoritative 4-1 win but propel Maine back into national championship chatter.
Of course, the group was not without help from the cast of usual suspects like Michel Leveille, Teddy Purcell and netminder Ben Bishop. But thatís not the point.
Without, those guys that revel in getting dirt — diving on loose pucks, blocking shots, taking the body, making screens — it was that St. Cloud State wouldnít have gone so quietly into the night
"They gave us a boost tonight," said Leveille. "We need those type of guys doing the dirty job."
The biggest of those "dirty" dudes, Shepheard, tallied arguably the most crucial goal of the game and served as the catalyst for what quickly became a snoozer in the second period.
At 7:21, with the Black Bears trailing after a weak let in by Bishop, Shepheard cut in around the Husky Defense and sent a fluky shot at netminder Bobby Goepfert from behind the net.
"I just tried to throw it out front and it went off the goalieís skate and in," said Shepheard. "They got a lucky one, and we got."
In the end, the tally spark a Maine fever rush with the Black Bears scoring 50 seconds later and then at 14:08 of the first period to bolster themselves with a two-goal advantage. After the game, Leveille was quick to give all the credit he possibly could to Shepheard, who he feels personifies that group of gutsy Maine under cards.
"His physical presence is huge," said Leveille. "Brent is a senior that does all the little things right. He is really great defensively. He does the dirty job. Heís the type of guy you need if you want to go far in the tournament."
Throughout, those type of characters helped catapult Maine into the elite eight for the second straight year.
Johnson with a screen here. Clark with a great face-off win there.
"When your third line and fourth line plays like that, itís a great sign," said Bishop.
And it didnít even stop there. At 17:08 of the second period, big bruiser Bellamy rocketed home his first goal of the season on an opportunistic rebound.
"Iím so happy for him to finally get that goal off their back," said Bishop.
The group also deserves plenty of praise for how they set up the squad headed into the tourney. With 13 days off between their Hockey East quarterfinal loss to Massachusetts and todayís victory over the Huskies, the Black Bears were able to evoke a new sense of meaning into their season. Early on in the contest it was clear — this wasnít the same Maine team. The break had woken them up.
"It was a weird feeling, it almost felt like the first game of the season," said Lundin. "Weíve been off for a while. I was pretty nervous coming in; probably the most nervous Iíve been since that Minnesota game at the first of the season. We were as prepared as best as we could be."
The break was a help; and it was mainly due to the attitude of the "dirty" soldiers who instilled a solid focus and new found energy into the team.
"I think that week off kind of did help us," said Shepheard. "Everyone took that time off and got some time away from the rink and got recharged. All week everyone seemed focused on the task at hand. I feel we were very well prepared. Everyone knew what to expect."
"As weird as it, I think it was a great wake-up call for us to lose four in a row. It was definitely really disappointing. But knowing that we would get a chance to bounce back and actually get a chance to go to the Frozen Four was huge. The entire week we really practiced hard. Guys want to prove themselves, we wanted to do things right."