Maine forward develops a knack for scoring key goals in the postseason.
ORONO – Josh Soares can’t exactly choose the biggest goal he’s had in his Maine career, but the junior forward certainly knows what it could be.
“Maybe the game-winner (in Milwaukee),” said Soares. “That would be real neat. We’ll see what happens.”
Soares has a knack for netting goals in Maine playoff games the past two seasons.
He scored the tying goal in the overtime loss to Boston College in last year’s Hockey East final and scored the Black Bears only goal against the Eagles in this year’s conference tourney loss. He also scored the first goal in the victory over Harvard in the East Regional and set up a pair in the victory over Michigan State.
“Over the last year, BC was a big one to tie it in the Hockey East semifinal,” said Soares. “They’ve all been pretty even, I think. It’s hard to pick one. This year, I made it a 2-1 game against BC and kept it close. The one against Harvard was a big one. It made it 1-0. Fortunately, they’ve come at good times. I’m happy I’m able to put the puck in the net when we’ve needed it.”
Maine coach Tim Whitehead says that Soares has developed that touch around the net that makes him a sniper with the puck. Soares has 15 goals and 25 assists in 41 games, including nine power play tallies.
“The thing that makes him special is not that he just does everything well, but he’s an exceptional goal scorer,” said Whitehead. “He has a vision to score the big goal at the key moments. He’s done that consistently throughout his career not only here but in juniors too. He has the courage to make a play in a key moment.”
The native of Hamilton, Ontario, led the OPJHL in scoring with 56 goals and 68 assists before coming to Maine. After scoring two goals and one assist in 15 games his first year, he had 12 goals and 11 assists in 35 outings as a sophomore.
“Last year was kind of a stepping stone for me,” said Soares. “I was just trying to get in there and play. I was just trying to play a good overall game. I think I succeeded in that. This year, I came in with a lot more confidence.”
Playing on Maine’s top line with Hobey Baker finalist Greg Moore and Michel Leveille certainly helps his opportunity.
“Greg gets a lot of attention, and Michel is probably one of the craftiest players in the nation,” said Soares. “Greg scoring all those goals really helps out, too. He gets the puck and puts the puck in the net. It really does help playing with great players like that.”
Defenders may easily lose track of Soares with Moore’s 28 goals and Leveille’s 15 goals and 24 assists, but Soares has emerged as more than just a spare part on Maine’s top line.
“He’s been one of our most consistent players all season,” said Whitehead. “So he’s doing everything that he’s been doing all year. He comes in focused for each practice and each game. He does everything very well. He’s a great complimentary players to Leveille and Moore to the point where he’s not just a complimentary player anymore. He’s one of the elite players on our team.”
Soares says his scoring success hasn’t put any undue pressure or expectations on his shoulders. As part of the top line, he knows he has a responsibility to produce.
He just hopes his string of key goals continues this week in Wisconsin at the Frozen Four.
“It’s been nice to be able to do that for my team,” said Soares. “Fortunately, I guess, I have been in the right place at the right time. I’ve been working well with my linemates in those situations. We work hard out there, and fortunately, I’ve been the one that’s got the goals.”