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Globe South sports notebook

Mike Keenan takes lead role at Dartmouth

MIKE KEENAN MIKE KEENAN
By John R. Johnson
December 4, 2011
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For a kid born and raised in Weymouth, moving to Sioux City, Iowa after his graduation from Catholic Memorial represented a bit of culture shock for Mike Keenan.

Keenan packed the moving van to play for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, a route taken by many high school grads who hope to eventually play Division 1 college hockey.

After his second season with the Musketeers, in which he finished fourth among USHL defensemen in points, Keenan was excited to leave behind the corn stalks of Iowa for Dartmouth College.

That excitement quickly turned to major disappointment, however, when Keenan tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice on Thanksgiving Day of his freshman year, requiring season-ending surgery.

“It was devastating,’’ Keenan said of the fluke injury that resulted from banging his knee awkwardly against the boards while leaving the ice. “The first few weeks were tough.’’

Yet, the determination Keenan showed in recovering from the injury likely led to him being elected captain this season, as a junior.

Following knee surgery in December 2009, Keenan attended every practice. Rehabilitation consisted of painful stretching exercises required soon after the surgery, working with weights, and riding the stationary bike.

He started to skate again during the summer before his sophomore year and was cleared to play at the start of last season.

“To be elected a captain as a junior at Dartmouth is a pretty big deal,’’ said longtime Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet.

“I’ve never seen a kid work any harder. He was devastated when he got hurt, but the very next day he was focused on doing what he needed to do to get back. The way he carries himself and competes every day, and the fact that he worked so hard to get back into shape really gained the respect of the entire team.’’

Keenan’s work ethic was rewarded by his teammates, who elected him the sole captain on a squad that carries 10 seniors, three of whom serve as assistant captains. It is not the first time Keenan has been recognized for his leadership skills and hard work.

The 6-foot, 190-pound blueliner captained the CM squad his senior season, and served in the same role during his second season with the Musketeers.

“It was a big honor,’’ Keenan said of the Dartmouth captaincy, “especially when you have 10 seniors on the team who are all great leaders.

“To be named a captain after really only one full season of playing is exciting. I go out and work hard every single day, and I don’t take days off. I’ve had to battle through a lot of different things, and I think the guys see and respect that.’’

After skating in just seven games as a freshman, Keenan saw action in all 34 games last season as a member of the Big Green’s second defensive pairing. Dartmouth finished the season in the top 20 nationally in scoring, defense, and penalty-killing. He also contributed three goals and eight assists.

Known as a stay-at-home defenseman, Keenan has one goal and one assist through 10 games this season for the Big Green (4-5-1, 1-1-1 Ivy League).

“Mike is absolutely fearless,’’ said Gaudet. “He’s not a big 6-foot-3 guy, but he’s very physical and is not going to back away from a confrontation to take somebody off the puck. He blocks pucks and makes a nice first path as a defenseman, which is critical. He gives us so much.’’

His skills on the ice aside, Keenan’s leadership qualities are in demand more than ever this season. Keenan skates with two freshmen on defense, and serves as a mentor to five freshmen forwards who see action regularly.

“Mike is highly respected by our guys,’’ said Gaudet. “We’ve got five freshmen forwards playing in key situations, and Mike is a good mentor to them and to our whole group of younger players. He plays the role of intermediary very well in that he gets along well with our seniors and is also a good role model for the younger guys.’’

NCAA recognizes Stonehill’s Neville

All-American kick returner Stephan Neville of Foxborough capped his record-setting football career at Stonehill College with selection to yesterday’s NCAA Division 2 vs. NAIA Senior Classic in Middletown, N.Y.

Neville, who has set an NCAA Division 2 record with 10 career kickoff returns for touchdowns, led the Northeast-10 for the third-straight year by averaging 29.8 yards per kickoff return (7th nationally in Division II), totaling 686 yards on 23 returns with two touchdowns.

He ranks third in the NE-10 (19th nationally) by averaging 12.1 yards on punt returns, totaling 194 yards on 16 returns with one touchdown.

Neville finished the year third on the team with 918 all-purpose yards, adding 38 yards on an interception return to his totals above, and also contributed 30 tackles (23 solo), five pass breakups, and a fumble recovery on the defensive side of the ball. He also returned a punt for a touchdown this season.

Here and there

North Quincy High grad Rebecca Goreham helped the Fitchburg State women’s basketball team get off to a 5-0 start by averaging 10 points and a team-high 13.2 rebounds per game. A 5-9 senior forward, Goreham also leads the Falcons with 15 assists and is second with 12 steals.

Meredith Kelly, a sophomore guard at Bates, scored a team-high 17 points and added seven steals in a 76-63 loss at Southern Maine. The Cohasset High graduate added three assists, two rebounds and a blocked shot. She was last year’s Rookie of the Year in the New England Small College Athletic Conference and is fourth in scoring (17 points per game) in the conference.

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