ORONO – University of Maine goalie Jimmy Howard has signed with the Detroit Red Wings and won’t be returning for his senior year, the school said Wednesday.

Howard played in 82 career games for Maine and leaves holding school records for career goals against average (1.84), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (15).

“I have been dreaming of playing in the National Hockey League all of my life, and to get one step closer to that goal is special,” said Howard. “I really enjoyed my three years at Maine.”

Howard said he cherishes his memories of the Alfond.

“Playing in front of the greatest fans in college hockey is something I will never forget,” Howard said. “It has been a privilege to wear the Maine sweater. I wish all my teammates the best this season.”

“Naturally I am disappointed that Jimmy will not be back with our team this season,” said head coach Tim Whitehead, “but I am also very proud of Jim and excited for his future with Detroit.”

Last season Howard played in 39 games with a 1.97 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He posted six shutouts on the season, including four against Hockey East opponents, giving him a conference record nine career shutouts.

In 2003-04, Howard recorded six shutouts in 22 games played and posted a 1.19 goals against average and .956 save percentage, both of which set NCAA single-season records.

He was named a second team All-American, Hockey East first-team all-conference and Hockey East ITECH Goaltending Champion.

Howard set Hockey East regular season records with a 1.15 GAA and a .953 save percentage.

The Black Bears will likely use the tandem of sophomore Matt Lundin and true freshman Ben Bishop.

The 6-foot-5-inch Bishop was drafted 85th overall by the St. Louis Blues in this year’s NHL draft.

Maine opens its season Oct. 7 in the IceBreaker Tournament at Colorado College. Its home opener is a week later against the defending national champion, Denver.

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