After a season that saw the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team return to the national tournament, finish as the runner-up in the Hockey East tournament and play to a fourth-place finish during the regular season, the team knew going into this 2012-13 season that they had some big shoes to fill if they wanted to repeat the same kind of success.
With five top-tier players leaving the team either for graduation or hopping to the pros, getting back to the national tournament is not going to be an easy feat. But a few returning players are back on this year’s squad to help the Black Bears achieve their goals, one of them being the top goal-scorer from the previous year, senior forward Joey Diamond.
Diamond was voted on by the team to become one of the three team captains, the other two being senior defensemen Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec. A native of Long Beach, N.Y., Diamond won a gold medal as part of the U17 Team USA hockey team in 2005 and the silver medal for the U18 team in 2006. Diamond played junior hockey for the Omaha Lancers in 2007-08 and won the Clark Cup Championship, which is awarded to the winner of the United States Hockey League Tier 1 Junior Hockey playoff champions. The year before heading to UMaine, he played for the Hamilton Red Wings.
But before he got to that level of hockey, Diamond had been skating around from a very early age with strong influence from his family.
“My dad played, my brother played, my uncle played. My dad put me on skates when I was two years old with my older brother, and I fell in love from there,” Diamond said.
Being from New York, Diamond is also a fan of the local teams. His favorite players spent time playing for the New York Rangers at one point in their careers.
“I’m a New York guy, I really like the Islanders and Rangers, I just like the rivalry, I just wanted to see a good game between them,” Diamond said. “I liked Theo Fleury, he was a fun small guy to watch. I liked Eric Lindros, he was huge.”
After growing up playing the sport and playing in junior leagues, the choice as to where to go to college was a simple one for Diamond. The only college visit he made was to the University of Maine. After being recruited by head coach Tim Whitehead and the visit, Diamond was sold.
“I like the tradition here,” Diamond said. “When I was growing up they were in the Frozen Four every year it seems like when I was watching college hockey. Coach Whitehead recruited me heavily and I came up here for a visit. I love the atmosphere, love the campus, I love everything about it and I thought it would be a great place for me.”
Being named a team captain his senior year means a lot to Diamond as well.
“It means a lot to me, it’s a true honor to be put into that group at the University of Maine,” he said. “It’s a pretty special feeling and I just want to do the best job I can.”
The team captains were running practices in mid-September before coaches were allowed to, which allowed for Diamond, Cornell and Nemec to instill team values and set expectations for the season. Diamond holds the team to high standards at all times, whether they are at a high or low point in the season.
“Just being on them in practice and games. Just leading the way, that’s one of my jobs is to lead by example on the ice and off the ice,” Diamond said. “We had a tough weekend [against St. Lawrence University] but I think it was definitely an experience we needed to learn from and with conference games [getting started Oct. 26], we’re pretty excited about that and it means something from here on out.”
One of the notable parts of Diamond’s game is his physical play. He uses his playing style as motivation for the other players to get in the game and play hard for the team. However, his physicality has led him to a consequence that in his eyes isn’t exactly desirable. As of October 26, Diamond has accrued 349 penalty minutes, 10 minutes shy of the UMaine school record of 359 minutes set by Prestin Jackson, who played his last game for the Black Bears in 2004. With nine penalties for 29 minutes through five games this year, it is likely that Diamond will break the record this season.
“I’ve always played the same way growing up; I’ve never changed my style,” Diamond said. “It gets other guys going; they see a big hit or a physical play. Other guys on the ice see that from the bench and get motivated to go out there and do the same things. [The UMaine school record for penalty minutes] is not something I wanted or was a goal ever coming to UMaine, it’s just something that happened. I can’t believe I’m so close to the school record. It’s not the greatest accomplishment I could ever have but I guess it’s pretty cool. I’m the top one here at UMaine.”
Diamond will finish up his career at UMaine this year, but hopes to stay in the game after college.
“I would love to play hockey,” he said. “That’s been my goal my whole life. I just want to take hockey as far as I can in my life, look back, and have some great memories.”