Faceoffs are an important part of a hockey game.
That’s because it dictates puck possession.
If you win faceoffs, you gain possession of the puck. If you lose, the other team has the puck.
The University of Maine has one of, if not the best faceoff man in the country so far this season in junior center and Bentley University transfer Harrison Scott.
Among the 50 Division I players who have won at least 89 faceoffs, Scott’s faceoff percentage is tops.
He has won 66.9 percent of his faceoffs, 91 of 136.
It was his clean faceoff win in Friday night’s 4-2 win over No. 1 Boston College that resulted in Donavan Houle’s go-ahead goal in the third period.
“I’ve always been pretty good on faceoffs,” said Scott, who won 17 of his 23 faceoffs in that Friday night game. “It’s something you have to work on every single day. We have a great group here. We’re always talking about new techniques and we watch faceoff video.”
Thanks to Scott, the nation’s ninth-ranked Black Bears with a 6-1-1 record have the nation’s best faceoff percentage among the 64 Division I schools at 55.8 percent.
“If you can gain possession as much as you can [on faceoffs], it’s a huge deal for winning hockey games,” sophomore defenseman Luke Antonacci said. “It sucks playing without the puck. You get more tired, the other team is in your zone and they gain momentum.
“[Scott] has been great [on faceoffs]. He’s also great at holding onto pucks. He is a strong body so it’s tough to knock him off the puck,” Antonacci said. “He has a great shot. His goal against RPI was unbelievable. He’s going to keep grinding. He’s a great tool for us.”
In his two seasons at Bentley, he notched 12 goals and 14 assists in 65 games, including two goals in a 5-1 win over UMaine last season.
Bentley went just 25-41-4 in those two seasons.
So he decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal.
“I wasn’t too happy with the past two years we had and I wanted something a little bit better. I wanted to be around more like-minded players and be part of a winning program,” explained the native of San Jose, California. “I am super grateful that Maine reached out and I had the opportunity to come here and be a part of this culture.”
And he feels he made the right choice.
“It has been everything and more than I expected. This is exactly what I wanted and needed for my goals going forward,” he said.
Scott has a goal and three assists in his first eight games and plays in all situations including the power play and the penalty kill.
UMaine has the nation’s 11th best penalty-killing percentage (88 percent) and it killed off a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:25 and a 4-on-3 power play in overtime to secure a 2-2 overtime tie with Boston College on Saturday night.
UMaine head coach Ben Barr said Scott has brought a lot to the team.
“He has been a spark plug,” Barr said. “He is an extremely hard worker. He is such a high-energy guy. He has a motor that goes a million miles an hour for 45 seconds and that’s a hard thing to do. He does a lot of little things that can change the momentum of the game.”
The normal shift for a forward is 45 seconds.
Scott said he has played pretty well so far “but I’m still working toward playing, ultimately, my best.
“Just being around more high-caliber players is pushing me to levels I wasn’t going to be able to reach last year,” the 23-year-old Scott said. “We’re growing and learning every single day and getting better.”
“He has been such a big pickup for us,” said UMaine senior center and co-captain Lynden Breen. “We’re super fortunate he decided to come here. He is a leader on and off the ice and is a complete 200-foot player who brings 100 percent effort every day.
“He has great energy and a great attitude. You can trust him in the faceoff dot, on the penalty kill and in all sorts of [situations]. He has a lot of talent but it’s his effort and will that separates him from other guys,” Breen said.
Scott said being a leader is part of his character.
“I lead by example. I like to bring the morale and energy. That’s the kind of person I am and the kind of player I am,” said the 6-foot, 190-pound Scott.
San Jose has a good youth hockey system according to Scott, who played for the San Jose Junior Sharks until moving to Illinois to play for Lake Forest Academy in Illinois and then going on to play in the North American Hockey League.
“California and Florida have become hockey hubs the last five or 10 years. But I had to leave to play in a higher competitive area,” he said.
Playing in front of enthusiastic back-to-back sellout crowds against Boston College last weekend was something he had never experienced.
“It was surreal. It was electric. It was so insane to play in front of that many people,” Scott said. “It shows how special it is to play here at Maine and how much it means [to the fans].”
He wants to continue to improve and become the “best player I can be” and he said he and his teammates want to win a national championship.
The Black Bears will have their hands full this weekend when they visit No. 8 Boston University, 6-3-1, for a 7 p.m. game on Friday and a 6 p.m. game on Saturday.
Preseason No. 1 BU has 14 National Hockey League draft picks including eight in the top three rounds. UMaine has one in Carolina Hurricanes first round pick (30th overall) Bradly Nadeau.
BU also has the country’s leading scorer in points per game (2.00) in 17-year-old freshman phenom Macklin Celebrini, who is projected by many to be the top overall pick in this year’s NHL draft.
Celebrini’s family moved to the San Francisco Bay area several years ago and Scott plays hockey and trains with Celebrini in the summer. They are friends.
“I played against him this summer. He’s shifty. He has all the moves. You have to play the body on him and take away his time and space,” Scott said. “You have to be hard and heavy on him.
“They’re a really skilled team. We’re going to have to bring our A game,” he said.