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College Hockey:
Maine’s Abbott makes a habit of saving his best for last

The Hobey Baker Award finalist leads the nation in scoring, but an injury question lingers.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories profiling some of the finalists for the 2012 Hobey Baker Award.

Spencer Abbott’s hockey game has gone through adjustments before.

A late growth spurt temporarily slowed his progress on the age-group level, but may have helped create in Abbott awareness that climbing through the ranks was possible with constant commitment.

Abbott’s game has steadily grown since the time he committed to Maine as a modestly recruited forward out of Hamilton, Ontario.

“When I was younger, I was pretty good,” Abbott said. “Everyone was the same size when we were 8, 9 or 10.

“I didn’t really grow until I was about 15. Guys were bigger and I wasn’t as much of an impact player at Triple-A when I was 14 or 15. My last year of Triple-A, when I was 16, was my best.”

Similarly, Abbott has made sure his last year as a college player has been his best.

Abbott worked his way into the Maine lineup as a freshman, nearly doubled his production as a sophomore, then jumped from sixth to second on the Black Bears in scoring during his junior season.

The climb continued this season, resulting in Abbott not only leading Maine, but the entire nation in scoring.

There was both celebration and concern for Abbott last weekend at the Hockey East Championship.

When teams gathered in Massachusetts Thursday, the night before the semifinals, Abbott was named Hockey East Player of the Year at the annual awards banquet. It was also revealed during a video presentation that Abbott was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as the top college hockey player in the country.

Abbott suffered an undisclosed injury late in Maine’s 5-3 semifinal win over Boston University Friday night and did not play in a 4-1 loss to Boston College in Saturday’s final.

While Abbott put in the work to assure an increased impact this season as an assistant captain at Maine, he said he did not think about situations like leading the nation in scoring.

“I never expected that to happen,” Abbott said. “It’s a credit to my linemates; I’ve been playing alongside Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond.”

Flynn joined Abbott as first-team Hockey East all-stars while Diamond was a second-team choice.

Their work together made Abbott, Flynn and Diamond the top three scorers in Hockey East, a feat that has been accomplished only twice before. Craig Janney, Dan Shea and Kevin Stevens did it for Boston College in 1986-87 and Paul Kariya, Jim Montgomery and Cal Ingraham did it for Maine in 1992-93.

Abbott said he first became aware of the possibility of playing college hockey in the United States when he moved to the Canadian junior level with the Hamilton Red Wings as a 16-year-old.

“That’s when the college offers started coming in,” Abbott said. “My first year of juniors, I started getting a little interest.”

Abbott was rookie of the year with the Red Wings when he scored 32 goals and 43 assists in his first season. The next season, 2007-08, he led the team with 42 goals and 83 points.

Having already been to Northeastern, Abbott had more recruiting visits scheduled after his stop at Maine. They became unnecessary when he saw the campus and a game in Orono and decided to commit to the Black Bears.

“Being from Canada, I hadn’t seen many college hockey games so I didn’t really know what it entailed,” Abbott said. “I heard it was tough to play as a freshman, but I thought I had a decent year my first year and every year I’ve learned more.”

During his time at Maine, Abbott said he has learned to think more about scoring himself rather than just setting up teammates.

“I’m shooting the puck more,” he said. “I had always been a playmaker growing up.

“My first thought was to move the puck rather than shoot it.”

As he moves around to different spots on the power play, Abbott still often finds himself in that role. Otherwise, he is more comfortable looking for goals.

In 38 games, he has 20 goals and 41 assists while going plus-16, second-best on the team.

The increased production is not an accident.

Abbott, now listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, is used to spending summers trying to add a few pounds of muscle. Last summer, that work was put in with Gary Roberts, a 400-plus goal scorer in his NHL career who trains players in the Toronto area.

The desired weight and strength was added, translating to an improvement in Abbott’s game.

“It’s harder to push me off the puck now,” he said.

With Abbott leading the way, Maine has proceeded to the NCAA tournament. The Black Bears learned Sunday that they are the third seed in the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass., and will play defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth at 7:30 p.m. EDT Saturday. Boston College and Air Force are also in the regional.

Whether Abbott will be physically ready to be in the Black Bears lineup remains to be seen. He went down after being hit in the head. The specifics of the injury were not revealed by Maine, only that coach Tim Whitehead acknowledged the possibility Abbott may not be ready for the NCAA tournament opener.

“We just need to take that day by day,” Whitehead told the media in his postgame news conference Saturday. “With that type of injury, it takes some time and hopefully he’s well.”

The Black Bears played without Abbott for the first time this season in the loss to Boston College.

“We hope he’s back, but at the same time, this is an experience for us and we know what we’ve got to do if he’s not back with us,” Whitehead said.


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  • Nyquist77

    I hope Spencer is healthy & ready to go on Saturday

    It would great to see the top 2 Hobey Bake finalists going against each other

  • Bbear94

    It is clear that Abbott is not only the top scorer in the country but after watching Maine get smashed by BC without him, it’s also clear that he is more valuable to his team than any other finalist.

    1992 Pellerin
    1993 Kariya
    2012 Abbott

    Maine’s Hobey Baker award winners…

    • Boston-Maine~iak

      I wonder if he would’ve had this type of season if Gustav had stayed for his Senior year. One would think, Gustav stays, he’s riding shotgun with Flynn and Diamond and Spencer’s on the 2nd line with probably Mangene and Anthoine. 

      Also, imagine how dynamic this team would’ve been with two elite playmakers in Nyquist and Abbott and two legit lines. 

    • Jason

      This whole argument of who is more valuable to their team is garbage. If we go by that logic Kent Patterson should be the Hobey Baker winner because the Gophers wouldn’t be anywhere near the position they are in now without him. And I’m sure you could pick out one or two players on other teams as well. I’m not saying he should or shouldn’t win but please bring valid arguments to the discussion.

    • blackbear19

      Everyone continues to say the Bears got smashed by BC on Saturday, maybe Im in another world, but the Bears did put up 42 shots on goal Saturday night, maybe they were not the best in variety, but 42 shots is 42 shots, and that on any given night is damn good if I can say so……BC is the class of NCAA and everyone is picking them basically to win…..so with Abbott we have a better chance to win, sure, but without him we can still find a way to get pucks on net, and thats how you win, am I wrong?  Go Bears!

      • Tardis1

        BC had 43 shots to Maine’s 42, but Sullivan looked lost on the ice.

    • keppelfinga

      not mvp its the best player in college hockey, theres a difference

    • Karl Largen

      How is it clear that he is more valuable to his team than any other player?  How is that a statement that you can even prove? 

      I’d like for my most valuable player on my team to not score 26% of his points in 10% of my team’s games, against my team’s two weakest opponents.  I’d also like if my most valuable player didn’t go scoreless in 6 of the 9 games he played against my toughest opponents, and only average   I’d really love for my best player not to go scoreless in 26% of my teams games.  

      I’d much prefer my player to have stat line that shows he was only shut out 13% of his games. I’d love for my most valuable player to average 1.89 PPG and not be held scoreless once in 9 games he played against NCAA tourney qualifiers.

      But hey that’s just what I’d prefer.  

      • Tom

        A lot easier getting points on the best team as always playing weaker teams. If UMD didn’t have Jack they would still b in the tournament if Maine didn’t have Abbott they would be golfing. Plus jack has like 60% or more points on pp

        • Karl Largen

          Tom,
          You sound so intelligent saying  ”Jack has LIKE 60% or more points on the PP”. Why don’t you actually look it up?
           
          I mean Jack has 4.5% more of his points on the PP than Abbott does, whats your point?   He also has 1.6 PPG against the top 6 WCHA teams and Abbott has .75 PPG against the top 6 HE teams.  Just to break it down for you, the average rank of the top 6 WCHA teams according to the PWR is 12.33 and the average PWR of the top six HE teams is 12.166.   Looks like comparing apples to oranges doesn’t it??? 

          Come on Tom.  I challenge you or anyone else who backs Abbott as the Hobey to give me and all the other Jack supporters a real stat to us that Abbott was the better player night in and night out. 
           

          • Tom

            Why I don’t look it up is because I could careless wasting my time digging up numbers lol.  The top6 WCHA teams are all not as good as UMD, where the top 5 HE teams are better than Maine for most the season, so is it harder playing on a amazing team, or a team that has 1 line to shut down??

            Abbott means much more to Maine than Jack to UMD, again there would still be in the national tourny without Jack, Maine would be golfing.  So tell me who means more to their team?

          • Karl Largen

            You can’t prove that UMD is a national tourny team without Jack.  Just like you can’t prove Abbott means more to his team than Jack does to UMD.  Do you have a real argument or are you just going to keep saying things that you think?  

          • Karl Largen

            Abbott for Hobey!

          • Tom

             Glad to see you have turned the corner!
            I know you keep going on about Abbotts big weekends vs lower teams, but I don’t consider them much different than Jacks 6 points, vs a struggling always short handed Nodak who had to pull their goalie, and 2 of those 6 were on a 2 man advantage, that doesn’t impress me.

            What about the fact that Jack has almost half his goals on the pp?  Thats pretty scary,  Abbott has 3 on the pp.

            It’s easier for Jack to get points vs good teams, a) his team is still better then pretty much every good team, so even thou they are playing top 6 teams they are still playing weaker teams then themselves.  Maine was in the lower half of the HE standings until the last game of the season, and b) they have more depth so a team cannot setup to shut down just 1 line like they can vs Maine.

          • Tom

            Spencer Abbott is inconsistent. 

          • Tom

            A guy who’s leading the league on a lesser team than jack, with 1 less game played, don’t think so.

  • Bartneally

    Go Abbott, Go Maine!!!

  • Thinkupstream

    maine looked a little lost as a team on the garden ice to me…they were bumping into one another and i saw numerous stumbles…also they did not play the boards very well.  bc, on the other hand, is very framiliar with garden ice…its their 2nd home.  they also played a great game from top to bottom and had the better goalie that night.  worcester is a more neutral ice and who know which goalie is gonna show up for either team…and it would be nice to have abbot back.  go maine!