ORONO — It’s not as if Devin Shore is a robot on the ice. There is a flair to the Maine center’s game that is obviously driven by a love for hockey.
But it was startling to see his emotions boil over at the tail end of another frustrating loss last Saturday. The sophomore appeared to set his team up for a six-on-four advantage in the final minute by forcing a Providence hooking penalty. When he was also whistled for embellishment, Shore lunged toward the official with malice in his eyes. He was restrained by a teammate, but drew a 10-minute misconduct penalty and could only watch as his team lost 3-2.
The first penalty was questionable. The second was inexcusable, Shore said.
“I’m a very emotional, intense player, but I don’t think that’s the type of player I am. I learned from that and that’s the first and probably last time you’ll see that from me,” Shore said.
“I’m a competitive guy and I really just want our team to win at all costs. But I’m also a disciplined guy.”
Shore had reason to be upset with the predicament he and his team put themselves in. A four-game winless stretch to end the regular season forced the Black Bears into a one-game playoff to advance to the Hockey East quarterfinals. They will host last-place Merrimack at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Shore is Maine’s leading scorer with 39 points. He is often a barometer for how his team performs. And Coach Red Gendron indirectly called him out after last Friday’s loss to Providence, saying the Black Bears needed their best players to perform in big moments.
Gendron backed off that sentiment this week, correctly pointing out that all players need to be at their best come playoff time, that any one of them can make a difference.
It’s just that Shore has shown he can be the biggest difference for Maine.
“You always want to bring your best to a big game,” Shore said.
“I haven’t been in a one-and-done game in a long time, maybe even including juniors, and I think any hockey player who loves the game and loves the competition, loves and thrives in this situation. It’s what you dream about when you’re playing pond hockey or road hockey, just that all-or-nothing mentality is really exciting and hopefully our team comes together and we can grasp that opportunity.”
If Maine wins, it will head to Providence for a best-of-three series. Gendron said he has been encouraged to see his team practicing with its usual pep this week. Last week, he sensed a tentativeness.
“They were a little nervous about the magnitude of the game,” Gendron said. “I don’t see any of that this week.”
Gendron pulled starting goaltender Martin Ouellette in the second period last Saturday, giving fellow senior Dan Sullivan his first meaningful minutes of the season. He said Thursday it was still an open competition for who will get the nod Saturday.
Shore, meanwhile, credited Gendron with helping him become more aggressive about putting the puck on net, as opposed to trying to make the clever pass. He said he’s also become better at finishing his checks.
He’s eager to put those skills on display in the postseason.
“These are the most important, fun games of the year,” Shore said. “You’re going to have a long offseason, so you don’t want to look back saying I wasn’t emotionally ready.”
There is at least one referee who won’t question Shore’s emotions.