For Maine players Greg Moore and Jimmy Howard, Michigan is familiar territory.

ORONO — For the University of Maine, a trip to Michigan was the last thing on its wish list for the NCAA tournament, especially when the Black Bears have to face Michigan at Yost Arena, the Wolverines’ home ice.

For two Maine players, though, the trip will be a homecoming of sorts. Jimmy Howard of Ogdensburg, N.Y. and Greg Moore of Lisbon spent two years with the United States Development Program in Ann Arbor. They played hockey in an ice rink just down the street from Yost Arena, and stayed with local families.

“I’m excited to see the place again,” said Moore. “I’ll be spending some time there with my former billet family, and hopefully they can see me play. They haven’t had that chance yet.”

Though they didn’t regularly play in the same arena as this year’s regional, the two did skate against Michigan in an exhibition game. Michigan won the game 3-1, but for a group of player under 18-years-old, the results weren’t all that bad.

“Their fans can be nuts, and I remember that well,” said Moore. “Our showing against them last year was pretty respectable considering the ages of all the players.”

“We didn’t play in the same rink,” added Howard. “But we got a feel for the area. They love hockey there, and that environment is going to be great to play in.”

For Moore, the trip is even more special because of the company he will be able to keep in Ann Arbor. Aside from his billet family, Moore’s girlfriend of more than a year still lives in Michigan.

“I don;t even know if she is going to get to see me play,” said Moore. “I don;t have any control over tickets. It’s completely out of my hands.”

That doesn’t mean that the two will not get to spend any time together.

“She’s pretty excited,” admitted Moore. “She knew that we might be going out there, and she was hoping for it. Obviously for different reasons I wasn’t, but it worked out that way anyway.”

Neither Howard nor Moore were members of the team last season when the Black Bears lost to Minnesota in the national championship game on what was virtually home ice for the Golden Gophers. Both of the freshmen are excited to get back to Michigan, and echo the team’s sentiment that the environment is conducive to good hockey.

“It’s just a great place to play a hockey game,” said Moore. “The fans really get up for it there.”

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