ORONO, Maine — In one breathtaking moment, Greg Moore made his imprint on Maine’s hockey program.
The moment came last season, on one of the grandest stages in the game, the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The location was Albany, N.Y. And the scene was one few Black Bear followers will soon forget.
With the Black Bears’ fate in the balance, Moore captured a loose puck and sealed his place in Maine folklore for decades to come with the type of goal destined to be immortalized, in a game that typified the beauty of college hockey,
Maine fell behind early to Harvard, 4-0, only to stage one of the program’s most dramatic comebacks. With the Crimson on the ropes and the Black Bears needing one goal to complete their rally, Moore stepped into the limelight in the third period.
It’s a moment that Moore’s teammates will always associate with the endearing forward.
“The first memory I have of him is scoring the game-winning goal against Harvard,” said junior Derek Damon. “It was a typical hard-working goal from Greg.”
Moore’s goal was the winner, propelling the Black Bears one game nearer the Frozen Four.
“The first game I think of is that game-winning goal against Harvard last year,” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “It was just a tremendous play in such a huge game, but there are also a lot of little moments over his three years that come to mind.”
For Moore it is one of many memories that stand out.
“For myself, the goal I scored against Harvard was my career highlight,” said Moore. “Teamwise, winning Hockey East last year was amazing. The triple-overtime game against UMass-Amherst was one of the most exciting games I have ever played in.”
But Moore’s tenure at Maine will be remembered for much more than a lone goal in the spotlight.
Moore, a native of Lisbon, Maine, arrived in Orono with weighty expectations. The talented forward was coming off a high school career that had seen him play under head coach Mike Eaves for the U.S. National Development program. With Eaves, Moore played in 53 games, recording 13 goals and 24 assists.
Moore continued to succeed at a high level, winning a gold medal with the Under-18 team at the World Championships, where he served as an assistant captain for the squad. Whitehead believes the work with the development program helped to prepare Moore for his college career.
“I think it helped a lot. It gave him experience playing against and with elite players,” said Whitehead. “I think the tournament gave him big experience — it was like a pre-freshman year for him.”
It was then that Maine knew Moore was its guy.
“Moore went off to the national development tournament and that is where [assistant coach] Grant [Standbrook] saw him play,” said Whitehead.
Moore, who grew up watching Maine and Hockey East, knew early on what he wanted in a school.
“Early on around my sophomore and junior year in high school, the University of Michigan was the first to approach me,” said Moore, “but I had told them I wanted to play in Hockey East.
“A lot of it had to due with growing up as a kid and always watching Hockey East games and knowing it was a great league. It was just a goal of mine to get to that level.”
So with his mind made set on a Hockey East school, Moore picked between two suitors.
“Coming down the wire it was between Boston University and Maine,” said Howard. “Being a kid from Maine and watching them my whole life, obviously a chance to come here was something I wanted to do.”
The chance to wear his home state’s sweater was not lost on Moore.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Moore. “The greatest part is being close to family and not be to far from home. Just like everyone else on the team, I take pride in putting on the sweater.”
“It must be a thrill for him every time he steps out on the ice,” said Whitehead. “Especially from our standpoint as a coach, it’s definitely special knowing that here is a young man that grew up in Maine and is a real impact player for us.”
Moore’s development before high school came quickly and caught the attention of the program. “Greg pretty quickly became an elite player in the state of Maine,” said Whitehead.
And his national experience gave Moore an edge on his competition.
“He came in here with a lot of experience for a true freshman,” said Whitehead. “We were excited. We knew we had a really good player.”
Firmly planted in Maine blue, Moore began his freshman stint that came with explosive results. He finessed his rookie year with nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 33 games. Moore, who recorded his first collegiate goal in a 8-1 win over Lake Superior State, was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week in his second month of college play.
Moore believes several things have changed from that first year.
“I think the biggest thing from my freshman year to now is my confidence,” said Moore. “Just experience being in situations over and over again has helped me develop.”
“We have seen him grow each year to the point where he is a impact player in every situation,” said Whitehead. “He’s an outstanding penalty killer, great shot-blocker, and he’s a great guy to have on the ice in the first and last minute of the game because he plays hard.
“Each year it’s been a very steady progress for Greg,” added Whitehead. “He had a very solid freshman season on a strong team, then last year as a sophomore he really elevated his game.”
Moore played in 39 games for the Black Bears, tallying a team-high seven power-play goals, while hauling in a total of 15 goals and eight assists.
“He brings commitment as well as lot of smarts to the ice,” said All-American goaltender Jimmy Howard. “You can really tell his hockey sense is a lot better than other guys on the ice.”
“It’s just been very enjoyable working with him,” said Whitehead. “He comes from a great family, so it’s no accident that he has his head screwed on right and knows where he is going.”
Moore’s game has continued to evolve this year, snatching 17 points on a team-high 11 goals and six assists.
“It’s been very enjoyable seeing that development,” said Whitehead. “It’s a great indication that his best hockey is ahead of him.”
“He is a two-way player,” said Whitehead. “The best thing about his game is that when we lose the puck, his first three strides are towards our defensive end.”
For Whitehead, the difference has come in the new ways Moore has found to pilfer the net.
“What I like is that he is starting to expand the way he does score,” said Whitehead. “He’s scoring right at the net front with deflections and rebounds, he’s scoring on the rush, he’s one-timing the puck — I think he really is expanding.
“You know he is always going to play well defensively, so the offense is just a bonus.”
The Black Bears have witnessed a second-half assault from Moore, who has seemingly taken his game higher each weekend.
“The second half of the season his effort has been very consistent,” said Whitehead. “I think now you’re seeing him play real hard every night, and he’s realizing what type of player he is and that’s what I am excited about.”
“He was on a roll there for a while and we are going to need him to contribute if we are going to make a stretch run,” said Howard.
For Moore, it’s a career with promise that doesn’t stop at Maine. He was taken in the fifth round of the NHL entry draft by the Calgary Flames, who traded his rights to the New York Rangers on March 6, 2004.
“He’s a very complete hockey player,” said Whitehead. “I think he is a great prospect for the New York Rangers.
“I am confident he will be playing at the next level,” added Whitehead. “I think with one more year under his belt he is going to make a very strong step to the next level and be playing professional hockey.”