What was once a packed and vibrant dressing room three hours before was now just about empty. In it were two people. Michel Léveillé and myself.
Gone were the Black Bears who had just been ousted from the Frozen Four by the team of destiny, Michigan State. Gone were the hopes Léveillé had of captaining a team with tons of championship tradition to a national title. With the sound of the buzzer, Léveillé’s career at Maine ended.
“You know what? I got my degree, I improved as a player, and I grew as a person. Most of all, I did something I’d never imagined, I really learned how to speak English. That’s a pretty good career before I even think of my career on the ice,” said Léveillé.
Léveillé traveled a road that was quite long, from a CGEP team in Quebec to the British Columbia Junior League to Maine. He redshirted his freshman year due to confusion over credits earned prior to enrollment at Maine.
However, when he got on the ice, did he ever turn heads. As a pure playmaker his freshman year, he played with Colin Shields, who was a great goal scorer. Léveillé spent that season looking for Shields and saw his assist total skyrocket. Following Shields’ departure, the emphasis for Léveillé was to shoot to replace some of the goals that Maine lost between the departure of Shields and Todd Jackson.
“My role changed, I needed to shoot, and that really helped my development,” said Léveillé, who is being courted by a few teams at the professional level right now. “My mindset changed. I knew I just needed to get it on net. Look at the goals Michigan State scored tonight. Same idea, get it on net.”
This was a tough year for Maine. Great start and tough finish. Going 8-0-1 to start, they looked invincible but could not get it done in the end. However, Léveillé competed every night, and captained a team that showed grit and moxie in even getting here.
So how do you sum up Léveillé’s career?
Léveillé improved tremendously. He became a leader, he improved his communication and teamwork skills. He became an indispensable player on a team that has always been deep with talent and scored in bunches.
He was proud to be a Black Bear every bit as much as a native and since-departed Mainers Derek Damon and Greg Moore were in their time here. He wishes they could have won a title in his time here, but they did play in three Frozen Fours.
His departure will leave a hole that Maine has had an increasingly harder time to fill. With the resurgence of Northeastern and Providence and the continued challenge of recruiting against Vermont, UNH, and the Boston schools, finding another diamond in the rough (maybe it will be Joey Diamond) is getting harder.
“You don’t find many players or people like Michel Léveillé,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He’s a guy who made a huge impact on our program, and we’re proud of what he did here.”