Last week, I ventured too far down the rabbit hole. Like, way too far, to the point where I didn’t want to come back.

YouTube, man.

On Wednesday night, a few of us had been talking about the 1999 NCAA Frozen Four, when University of Maine forward and Sweden native Marcus Gustafsson converted a rebound to cap a furious overtime period in the Black Bears’ 3-2 national championship win over the University of New Hampshire. It remains the most entertaining overtime I’ve ever seen in a hockey game at any level. Naturally, any real discussion of Maine hockey — and national titles — starts with the 1992-93 team and Jim Montgomery’s one-man, third-period show in the 1993 title game against Lake Superior State.

Which brings me to the rabbit hole.

Late that night, I watched a 26-minute condensed version of that Maine-Lake St. game on YouTube. And then, sometime after 1:30 a.m., that rolled right on into an autoplay of an hour-long showing of “Out Of The Woods,” the official video (Remember VHS tapes? Those were the best.) of the UMaine Black Bears hockey team that season. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. If you have seen it, you need to see it again. Seriously.

The highlights belong to two people: Montgomery and coach Shawn Walsh. That’s not a revelation. But it is something to travel back more than two decades in time via a grainy video feed, actually shot with a handheld camcorder while it plays on an old television set, and recall what a quiet, determined leader Montgomery was; the perfect foil for Walsh’s fiery, impassioned direction. Walsh turns the room over to Montgomery before the start of the national championship — “It’s your team, Jimmy” — and all Montgomery has to say is, “Let’s just go play the way we know how to play.” That’s it. That’s all he has to say, and the other 20 guys in the room are ready to skate through Fort Knox for him. I swear, I shed a tear.

It’s exactly how you would have envisioned it, it’s even better that it’s also exactly how you remembered it.

Age does blur the memory, of course. I had always thought Mike Latendresse — former Messalonskee High School coach and current Colby College assistant — arrived at Maine later on. Same with Dave Lacouture. Similarly, I remembered Eric Fenton having played for the Black Bears earlier. None of it matters, really. In their heyday, the Black Bears were just one living, breathing thing. They were young men. Kids, really. But they were timeless. Maine hockey meant something.

In 2000, while working at a newspaper in Rhode Island, I covered the Frozen Four in Providence. Naturally, I found a replay of the Maine-North Dakota national semifinal tucked away in some corner of the worldwide web. So, I watched the first period of that game and still cannot figure out how Maine didn’t have the lead after the first period. I then came to the realization that 3:30 a.m. was far too late for an old man to be up watching YouTube.

And now you’re seeing how this rabbit hole can suck you right down.

“The University of Maine does not accept ties,” Walsh, sternly, reminds the team following a 3-3 draw against Providence College in just the second game of the 1992-93 season. It makes me laugh — not because of Walsh’s propensity for overreaction, but because this season’s Maine team went 11-21-4, yet I can’t even remember any of the 11 wins. With 21 losses, and a pile more over the last few years, too, I’m certain Maine would be happy to accept about 20 ties every winter at this point.

For those of us that grew up in this state in the 1980s and 1990s, we remember what UMaine hockey used to be. It was our professional sports team in the worst of times — Maine winters — and it was our family in the best of times. The Black Bears won, they won a lot, and they did so with players like Fenton and Eric Weinrich, both Maine natives, Montgomery, Scott Pellerin, Jean-Yves Roy, the Capuano brothers, all three of the Kariya brothers and so many more.

They were, for all intents and purposes, bigger than the Boston Bruins in these parts. Having a ticket to a game at Alfond Arena (before the expansion!) was better than a ticket to Fenway Park. You’d have walked across campus in nothing but your swim trunks against a 30-mph headwind if it meant you’d get in to see the Black Bears play.

Now, you can’t give those tickets away.

Look, I’m old. I get it. I remember my father complaining endlessly about hating winter and wondering, “What the heck’s his problem? I’m going to play pond hockey.” Now, I share my father’s disgust for anything that delays the start of golf season.

Speaking of early golf seasons, I can’t help but have had it up to here with the Bruins. For a third straight season, bad management, inconsistent play and far too many forgettable periods of hockey are boiling down to another gut-wrenching final week of the NHL season. If I were betting (for entertainment purposes only, of course) my money would be on Boston missing the playoffs yet again.

It’s a long way from the Ray Bourque and Cam Neely, Vladimir Ruzicka and Dmitri Kvartalnov (Google them) days when at least they’d make a run to the Stanley Cup final before being boatraced by the Edmonton Oilers juggernaut.

For a hockey fan, winter sure has become an absolute struggle around these parts. Maybe my dad was right.

At least I can get lost down a rabbit hole every once in a while.

This week, I’ll probably go back and look at those early 1990s Bruins teams, just to remember what it felt like when I was completely invested and playoff hockey wins — heck, playoff appearances — for the teams you cherished were plentiful.

YouTube, man.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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