ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Three weeks off would seem like plenty of time for a team to rehabilitate its injured players and get primed for a run at a regional tournament.

Francis Nault injured his knee in the first game of Maine’s two-game quarterfinal loss to Massachusetts and missed two weeks of practice. While on a spring break trip, Cliff Loya, Hockey East’s best defensive defenseman required stitches after slicing open his leg. Colin Shields has yet to produce since returning, some would argue prematurely, from a mid-season injury to his rib cage.

“That was the good thing about the layoff,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “The guys that were banged up got to heal a bit.”

Of all of the injuries, Loya’s may be the most detrimental. At 6-feet-2-inches, 202 pounds, Loya is a defensive stalwart who provides cover for rookie goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Frank Doyle.

According to Loya, his skating has improved and he should be close to 100 percent for game time.

“I couldn’t push off easily and I wasn’t getting to speed quickly in the first few days,” said Loya. “But today it was much better.”

Nault is more of an offensive force, and being able to push off to take a shot will be key to his effectiveness from the point. Nault is a staple on the Black Bears’ power play.

Minding the youth

The Black Bears’ game on Saturday will feature two first-time goaltenders in pressure situations. Actually, if you count both of Maine’s netminders, make that three.

Michigan features freshman goaltender Al Montoya of Glenview, Ill. This season, Montoya’s numbers (2.34 Goals-Against-Average, .910 save percentage) are almost as impressive as his presence has been between the pipes.

“He’s been in some tough games all season, and he’s seen enough action,” said Michigan head coach Red Berenson. “As far as being ready in a game like this, we’re not worried, and I’m sure Maine’s staff isn’t too worried either.”

Maine, of course, has two unseasoned goaltenders of its own in Howard and Doyle. Howard, the true freshman, was the most steady throughout the year, while Doyle seemed to come out of his shell midway through the season.

Working overtime

A tight game may be just what the doctor ordered for the Black Bears. Maine has faced Michigan three times in the NCAA tournament, and has played four overtimes in those three games. The longest game between the two came in the 1995 semifinals, a 4-3 Maine win in triple overtime. The teams battled through overtime in 1994 as well.

Maine also holds the all-time record for most overtime wins in the NCAA tournament with seven. Maine is 7-2 in overtime games. Two of Michigan’s six overtime losses in NCAA play have been to the Black Bears.


Michigan has never defeated Maine in the NCAA playoffs. The Black Bears hold a 3-0 edge in the only three meetings between the two, the last game coming in March of 2000 in Albany, N.Y. Maine won 5-2 and advanced to the Frozen Four, only to lose to eventual national champion North Dakota… Overall, the series is tied 3-3. Michigan took two decisions at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, and another at the Palace at Auburn Hills…Michigan is making its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, tying the all-time mark set by Minnesota in the 80s and 90s. Maine is second on the current list with five…Michigan has advanced to the Frozen Four all three times it has hosted a regional. This is the second consecutive year the Wolverines are a host…Michigan is 4-0 at home in the NCAA tournament since the committee adopted the regional format, and 7-1 all time…This is Maine’s first trip ever to Yost Arena.

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