ORONO — When Spencer Abbott walks into a hotel ballroom Thursday night for the Hockey East banquet, his sense of bravado won’t be misplaced. The same goes for his University of Maine teammates.

No one from Maine needs to pardon themselves or believe they just crashed someone else’s party.

“This isn’t to sound cocky or anything,” said Abbott. “But when we look around the room, we can say we belong.”

Put another way, and certainly not by Abbott, Maine owns the room. Four teams are left in the Hockey East tournament, which continues Friday night with the semifinals at TD Bank Garden in Boston.

Maine won two out of three games this season against each of the other three teams: Boston College, Boston University and Providence.

That’s a pre-game note, a bit of statistical trivia. Abbott knows that, too.

If you want to put a face on the 2011-12 Black Bears, use Abbott’s mug. He arrived on campus four years ago as an unheralded, unassuming, hard-working hockey player from Hamilton, Ontario. Four years later scratch the prefix off unheralded and keep the other attributes.

Sitting in the Shawn Walsh Center before a noontime capstone class in his childhood development major, Abbott seems to grimace. “My sophomore year I was just another player (at the Hockey East banquet). I don’t think anyone, other than my teammates, knew who I was.”

That is no longer true.

Off the ice, he is not demonstrative by any definition. He’s listed at 5-feet-10, 175 pounds but appears smaller. He speaks softly. His movement is economy of motion. Look closely for a swagger that’s been earned this season and you still might not see it.

Abbott leads Division I in scoring. Look at the scoring breakdown and see that he has almost twice as many assists as goals (20-39). He has been recognized as player of the month and may walk away from the banquet with Hockey East’s Player of the Year prize.

He’s a contender for the Hobey Baker Award, presented to the nation’s top collegiate hockey player.

“Growing up in Canada, I really didn’t know much about college hockey in the United States,” said Abbott. He knows more now.

Hamilton is a Canadian city. A busy place where people don’t have a lot of time for each other. Abbott wanted a slower lifestyle where he could stop and talk with anyone and make friends. “I’m not a huge fan of always being on the go.”

He needed one official trip to Maine’s campus and an unofficial, summertime visit to Northeastern to make up his mind. Vermont was at Maine for a game when Abbott was on campus. The atmosphere left a big impression. Noisy, rocking Alfond Arena was nothing like the junior hockey rinks in Ontario.

He was hooked.

He wants to play professional hockey. He wants to coach the sport when his playing days are over. That’s one reason he chose a childhood development major. Abbott has a plan he’ll get to in due time.

Tuesday, his mind was on Maine’s semifinals game with Boston University. But he wasn’t ready to completely let go of last weekend’s series with Merrimack College. Particularly Saturday night’s game when he was in the penalty box for 18 minutes. That was more penalty minutes than he picked up in the entire season.

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. Whacking and hacking in hockey is to be expected. (Merrimack) tried to get under our skin and they did. I didn’t catch on at first. My type of game is to be calm, relaxed and I was going out trying to hit people.”

Abbott and his senior teammates have never been to the NCAA playoffs. Maine had enough talent in his freshman season, he says, but some teammates were going separate ways. “It was like hockey wasn’t the most important thing in their lives.”

The team came together too late during his sophomore season, making a run to the Hockey East finals behind third-string goalie Dave Wilson before losing to Boston College in overtime. “We ran out of games to play,” said Abbott.

He can’t explain last year’s discouraging season with too many games lost in the third period. He can explain this year’s success and a 22-12-3 record after a 3-6 start.

“Everyone’s so positive. We like each other. We work together. We’ve made mistakes and lost some games. For the senior class, it’s been lessons learned.”

Brian Flynn, his roommate, close friend and fellow senior plays alongside Abbott on Maine’s first line. Joey Diamond, a junior and another close friend completes a top-scoring line.

Each trusts the other without reservations. That trust, says Abbott, doesn’t set them apart from the rest.

“This is a pretty special team. We don’t have some of the big names but all our parts work together.”

Steve Solloway — 791-6412
[email protected]

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