It was a soft goal just 3:39 in the game. Ben Bishop was playing in his first game since missing the last four, all losses, to a groin injury. Did he come back too early? Were the Black Bears in for a long night?
St. Cloud State knew what they might be going up against. The Huskies alternate captain Justin Fletcher said, “We had a plan to put a lot of pucks on the goalie and at his feet.”
But the goal didn’t faze Bishop. “It was just one of those goals,” he said. “I wish I could have it back.” He then laughed and said, “I told Coach that I had to get it out of my system.”
Bishop was one of the key reasons Maine opened the season at 8-0-1 and a number one ranking, including two wins at North Dakota and a victory over Minnesota at St. Paul. Leading up to the NCAA playoffs, he had a .921 save pct. and 2.15 GAA.
Then, the groin started to plague him, and Maine went 13-14-1 the rest of the season including six losses in the last eight and those four losses to Massachusetts down the stretch. Despite the injuries, he still started in 30 (and played in 31) of his team’s 37 games.
He had no choice but to sit out the final two games of the regular season and then the Hockey East first round series, all against the Minutemen who happens to be their next opponent.
The sophomore recovered after the initial goal, stonewalling St. Cloud State the rest of the way making 33 saves, which included some difficult ones.
“I was really proud of Ben particularly how he reacted after the first goal,” Maine coach Tim Whitehead said. “How he kept his cool after that showed a lot of composure and a lot of presence for a guy who hasn’t been in the net much in the second half of the season.”
Whenever there was a break, Bishop would use the time to stretch in order to keep those key muscles from tightening up.
“I was just trying to stay loose,” Bishop said. “I didn’t want to let it get tightened up. I use the TV breaks to my advantage. I don’t want to stand around and get stiff. I feel fine.”
Now, Bishop is standing tall, both literally and figuratively. At 6-7, he towers over the crossbar. If he stays healthy, he may tower over the rest of the NCAA field.