From Diamond to Ice
Maine's Boike Walks On With Black Bears
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
Nolan Boike didn't take the traditional route to the University of Maine.
After playing at Arlington (Mass.) High School and skating for former Merrimack Warrior Andy Heinze with the Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL), Boike was offered the chance to be a walk-on recruit with the Black Bears his freshman season.
Ultimately, a numbers game played out and things didn't work out for the 6-foot-1 forward.
Although it appeared that his hockey dreams were dead, Boike continued to train with his brother, Brian, a minor league hockey player, in the summer. After trying out, he also ended up making the Black Bears baseball team as a left-handed pitcher.
For the past three years, Boike has seen time as a reliever, a closer, and a starter on the diamond.
At the end of last season, he was skating and working out with Maine forward Billy Ryan. After the departure of Teddy Purcell, among others, the Black Bears needed bodies, and Ryan talked head coach Tim Whitehead into giving Boike another shot at making the team.
"Billy talked to Coach Whitehead, and he was gracious enough to give me another tryout," said Boike, who has appeared in eight of Maine's 11 games this season, registering an assist. "The baseball team was great too, very supportive."
Although he hadn't played competitively for three seasons, the thought of one day returning to the ice was always in the back of Boike's mind.
"I thought about it once in a while," he said. "My freshman year, there was just a lot of guys here, and they were all very talented. But, I always daydreamed of playing for Maine, with all of the history and tradition, and of course, it's Hockey East. It never really came to reality for me at first, but it always stayed in the back of my head. Thanks to a few things happening, I had another shot and I thought I would give it a go."
After skating in practices since late-summer, Boike felt fully prepared for his first collegiate game, Oct. 19 against Mercyhurst. But, nerves did creep in a bit.
"There was a little bit of nervousness," he admitted. "But, Coach Whitehead had us prepared well and I was playing with good linemates, so it made it easier for me.
"As far as the speed of the game, it was an easier transition when I dressed because I had been skating with the boys for a while. I had gotten used to the pace just by being in practice because we had some intense practices. It's definitely a quicker game than I've ever played, but game by game, shift by shift, I'm getting more acclimated to the speed."
After the hockey season ends, Boike said he will return to the mound.