ORONO – As Matt Duffy sat out of the lineup during the winter months last year, the Maine hockey player didn’t gripe or groan about his sudden lack of playing time.

He found more productive ways to utilize his spare moments.

“What I really admired about Matt was that he didn’t complain during that time,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He began working harder and improved those areas that were holding him back a little bit. As a result, when an opportunity arose for him at the end of the regular season and leading into the playoffs, he earned his opportunity.

“Some guys would not have been able to handle that challenge of dropping out of the lineup. When he came back, he really helped us.”

Duffy saw life as a college hockey player from two perspective in his freshman campaign. He thinks he’s learned what it takes to be a full-time contributor.

“You never give up,” said Duffy. “You always work hard. You practice what you’ve got to learn. That’s what I did with practice, doing the things I needed to work on.”

Whitehead says freshmen find the offensive part of the game a natural when they reach the college level but can struggle keeping up defensively.

“I had a period where I didn’t perform up to my ability,” said Duffy, a native of Windham. “I worked on what I had to work on to get back into the lineup. Then I showed them what I had to do.”

When Duffy made his return, he was an valuable addition. He scored his first goal as a Black Bear in the playoffs, scoring twice in the same game to beat Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals.

Duffy finished the year with three goals and five assists in 28 games. He also had a goal and an assist in the East Regional final against Michigan State and earned a spot on the East Regional All-Tournament Team. He also had an assist in the loss at the Frozen Four against Wisconsin.

“I thought he really got a lot out of last season,” said Whitehead. “He just kept getting stronger and stronger in both the Hockey East playoffs and the NCAA tournament action.”

Now the challenge for Duffy is to pick up where he left off. He worked diligently in the offseason, lifting weights and improving his conditioning. Duffy already feels ahead of where he was a year ago.

“He can certainly build off that like all of our guys,” said Whitehead. “Each year, you’re going to have experiences under your belt that will allow you to deal with similar situations in the future. It’s all part of the growing process.”

Whitehead says the challenge for Duffy is to avoid the assumption as a sophomore that it it going to come easier now than it did his first year. Whitehead says he doesn’t expect that kind of complacency with Duffy.

“He’s a hard working kid from a great family and I see him picking up where he left off,” said Whitehead.

With the graduation of Steve Mullin and Travis Wight, there are voids on the blue line to fill. Duffy certainly could help fill in the gaps there, especially with more minutes on the special teams.

“There’s a lot of minutes, a lot of leadership and a lot of outstanding defensive play those two have brought us over the years,” said Whitehead. “It’s an opportunity for Matt to expand his role. If you look at Mullin and Wight, they were penalty killers and shot blockers and leaders in the last couple minutes of the game. Some of the sophomore are going to have the opportunity to fill those roles.”

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