Maine Hockey Journal

Who are these Kids?

Portland, Me– The Maine Black Bears played their last exhibition game of the season last night against the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 Team. What’s the National Team Development Program?

“You are selected when you are a junior in high school and you go to Ann Arbor, Michigan for two years. Your first year, you play in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The second year you play mostly against college teams and play a few junior teams. Both years you play competition overseas. You travel overseas four or five times,” said Maine forward Kevin Swallow who played for the National Team Program from 2002 to 2004.

Freshmen defenseman Ryan Hegarty spent the last two years with the National Team Development Program. “It was a good two years. The first year was tough traveling and busing all over Michigan. The second year was really good for my development playing these college teams feeling for the pace, said Ryan Hegarty.

Both players remembered the day when they faced Maine. “That was a great experience getting to see the crowd and the band. I was real nervous before the game because I wanted to do well,” said Hegarty. “I remembered five years ago I played in Orono against Maine,” said Swallow.

Tim Whitehead believes players that come from the National Team. “It’s always fascinating to see the adjustment period for freshman. When you get selected for National Development Team everything gets sped up. Your process gets sped up,” said Tim Whitehead

Whitehead has seen Hegarty’s development grow since the start of the season. “Hegs got off the ground great with us and had some great games early. He had a couple of tough games defensively. It was a good experience for him because he’s back on track,” said Whitehead. “He has simplified the game offensively and still has that great physical presence.”

For this year’s National Team Development Program squad they are 4-7-1 against Division I opponents. They have also faced a few Division III programs and they are 4-0 in those contests.

“Most guys on this team are going to play college hockey next year and it’s good for them to get a taste of it early,” said Kevin Swallow.

For Ryan Hegarty some of the members of the Under-18 team were former teammates. “It was fun. This game was pretty important for me. You don’t want to come out with a loss with the team that you just came from,” said Hegarty.

Hegarty stays in contact with his former teammates from the National Team Development Program. “I have talked to them. We talk about the differences are between lifestyles, practices, and games,” said Hegarty.

For Maine, they have a couple recruits coming to the program the next few years. Kelen Corkum and Nick Pryor were teammates of Ryan Hegarty in Ann Arbor will be at Maine next season. Corkum missed a good portion of last season and is spending the year with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs. He has nine goals and four assists in 13 games. Nick Pryor is spending a extra year in juniors with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League. He has five goals and ten assists in 22 games.

Stuart Higgins is in his first year with the National Team Development Program with the Under-17 squad. He slated to be at Maine in 2010. Right now he’s participating in the World Under-17 Challenge in Port Alberni, British Columbia. The Under-17 team faces Team Pacific (Canada) in the semi-finals tonight at 10pm. He has five goals and four assists in 25 games.

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