The Setup Man
Abbott's Three Assists Lift Maine in Frozen Fenway Win
by Michael King/CHN Reporter
BOSTON What normally provides passionate Fenway Park fans with an update on the American League East standings on the Green Monster scoreboard, read like this on Saturday evening: Abbott, ME, 30.
The scoreboard operators replaced the typical information with the scoring leaders for each team participating in the Frozen Fenway celebration of hockey, with Maine senior forward Spencer Abbott listed first by virtue of his Hockey East-leading 30 points. The display on one of the most famous scoreboards in sports served as a unique acknowledgment of his accomplishments, in a unique and special event.
"It was a breath-taking experience," Abbott said of the experience of playing at Fenway Park."There's a lot of history here, and it was fun to be a part of it."
Saturday night, the forward led his team to victory against New Hampshire, creating two goals for junior Joey Diamond and assisting on the overtime game-winner, in a 5-4 victory. The result would have been much different had Maine's best player not asserted himself in one of the most important games of the season, given the venue and rivalry with UNH.
Abbott and linemates Brian Flynn and Diamond have accounted for more than 50 percent of the Black Bears' scoring this season. Naturally, such scoring ability concentrated among three individuals encourages opposing coaches to match this line with their best defensive players. That only makes the goal scoring more difficult — and consequently, more impressive — for Abbott and his linemates.
Heading into overtime with the score tied 4-4, Abbott — the national Player of the Month for December — created the scoring chance for his linemates. The senior cycled the puck down low and fed it to Diamond, who then passed to Flynn. Then senior collected the puck and hurled it toward goal, where it deflected off UNH defenseman Trever vanRiemsdyk and past goaltender Casey DeSmith.
In addition to the accomplishments of Abbott's line during even-strength situations — like the Frozen Fenway game-winner — the trio helps feed Maine's league-leading power play. The Black Bears have scored on an average of 26 percent of their power plays this year.
And Saturday evening continued that trend. UNH put itself in a two-man disadvantage situation in the middle of the second period. The Wildcats created a turnover near mid-ice and converted a breakaway into a goal. Maine immediately responded with two power play goals during the same sequence — all within one minute.
Not surprisingly, that response was driven by Abbott. The senior — who typically leads the first power play unit — controlled the puck from the right point. Threatening to send a slapshot toward DeSmith, the vigilant Abbott spotted Diamond streaking toward the net from the opposite side. Abbott altered his slot and sent a perfectly timed pass into the center of his linemate's stick, resulting in a goal that DeSmith had little chance to save.
Not only did the play level the contest, it also prevented Maine from losing momentum by surrendering the rare 5-on-3 shorthanded score.
Early in the third, Abbott again displayed his offensive brilliance. Skating through the slot with his back to goal, the senior made a delicate on-ice pass through the legs of his marked defenseman. For the second time in as many periods, Diamond made a seemingly clairvoyant connection with his linemate. The junior simply collected the puck and brushed it past DeSmith. It was Diamond's second goal of the game, but also the second he owed to an exceptional setup by Abbott.
After the game, Abbott's linemates lauded his play and acknowledged the value of playing with a winger who can create significant opportunities.
"He's extremely talented with the puck, so playing with him you always have to be ready for a pass and ready to shoot," Flynn said. "He creates a lot of space for us, because teams are starting to realize how skilled he is."
Though this realization may be recent for opposing teams, it's certainly not for those associated with Maine hockey. The senior recently reached the 100-career point mark — one of the many accomplishments Abbott has achieved in his almost four-year career.
However, last season Abbott didn't have the onus of serving as the team's best player and responsibility of leading the team's scoring efforts. That fell on forward Gustav Nyquist, who now plays for the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League.
Right before the break, Abbott was in top form scoring nine points — including a hat-trick — in a weekend sweep of Vermont.
His recent strong play also allowed the senior to play a key role in his team's victory in the 2011 Florida College Hockey Classic. Abbott had six points in the two victories over Clarkson and Massachusetts, earning MVP honors and his name featured on the trophy named after legendary Maine coach Shawn Walsh.
As for having his name featured much more prominently before the game — on the hallowed Green Monster — Abbott admitted it was something very special.
"How often do you get to have your name up on the Green Monster, you know? I took a picture of it — I loved it. It'll be cool to have something like that to look back on," he said.