Wilson, Out of the Shadows
Maine Senior Goalie Emerges, Helps Maine Ride to Finals
by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter
BOSTON Seven days ago, Maine goaltender Dave Wilson didn't have the fondest memories of the Hockey East Tournament. The last time he took the ice for the Black Bears in the postseason was 2007 against Massachusetts in Amherst.
Wilson, standing in for injured starter Ben Bishop, struggled to develop any rhythm in the pair with the Minutemen as they promptly tossed the Black Bears from the playoffs. The week before that, it was another pair of bad performances against UMass that clinched the return trip to the Mullins Center for the Black Bears.
Life in Orono wasn't particularly kind to Wilson after those consecutive sweeps in Amherst. There was another behind Bishop, and last season behind freshman Scott Darling. Wilson's game improved over time, but, entering the 2009-10 season, it was clear that Darling, now sophomore, was No. 1.
Well, seven days ago, the college hockey world learned that Maine coach Tim Whitehead had suspended Darling for an undisclosed reason.
The Hockey East Tournament began the same day, and Whitehead turned to Wilson to guide Maine past Massachusetts-Lowell. Maine lost that game, 2-1, to the River Hawks. The next night with elimination the punishment for a bad performance, Whitehead stuck with Wilson.
The Black Bears scored 23 seconds into the game, and Wilson stopped 23 UML shots in Maine's 2-0 win. The next night at Alfond Arena, Wilson made 26 more saves in an overtime win for Maine.
Defeating UMass-Lowell in Orono is one thing. But making the long ride to Boston to take on Boston University in the TD Garden is a little different. There were concerns, of course, but if Maine was to continue its resurgence, Wilson had to lead it there.
The Black Bears defeated BU, 5-2, Friday night in the Hockey East Semifinals. When a team scores five goals, the goaltender rarely draws the headlines, but the path he took to this moment mixed with his 25th birthday turned the attention to Wilson.
"Guys rise up at different points throughout the season. David certainly has risen up in the last few weeks when we needed it most. He's a great kid, and his perserverance and ability to focus in at this point in the season is exceptional. I'm very proud of him," Whitehead said following the game.
"It become clear to us pretty quickly actually in the Lowell series that he was rising up. He had a great week of practice leading up to it. The only goals [he allowed], one went in off Jeff Dimmen's shinpad on a pass that went to the net. And the second one, one of the Lowell players pulled it out of mid-air, so there was nothing David could do. The game he lost, he actually played exceptionally well. Then he has a shutout, and he's only given up two in the last two, so I'm really proud of his poise and his composure in these very tense situations - these elimination games."
Late in the game Friday night, a 9-minute video review led to BU's second goal of the evening. Maine led 3-2, but the Terriers had scored twice in the period, and picked up some momentum. A bad bounce at the Maine blue line led to a breakaway for Terrier sophomore Ross Gaudet.
Gaudet closed on Wilson, and aimed at the top corner over his blocker. A quick deke to the right preceded the wrister, but Wilson ignored the move and kept his team a goal ahead. Forty-seven seconds later, the Black Bears inched closer to the Hockey East Championship game - an empty-netter made it a certainty.
"As long as I have fun and relax, I can make those saves," Wilson said. "I saw [Gaudet] coming down at me so I tried to get out and challenge him on that breakway. But like I said, I was just trying to relax and have fun out there."
Looking back at where Wilson's career began, it's surprising to hear him demonstrate this measure of poise. Although, a 25-year-old man usually knows himself by that point in his life, whether he's in college or not.
Saturday night, Wilson hopes to continue the simultaneous celebration of his birthday and Maine's race to a sixth Hockey East Championship. Standing in their way is Boston College, a team that looks destined to celebrate at the TD Garden for the second time this season. Even with BC entering the game off one of their best performances of the season with four forward lines excelling and a goaltender, John Muse, who looks as sharp as he did when he led the Eagles to a national championship, if the last seven days are any indication, destiny is on Dave Wilson's side this year.