Hockey East Preview – University of Maine Black Bears

By: Justin Littman

6108_maine_black_bears-secondary-1999Head Coach – Red Gendron (third season)

Last season – 14-22-3 (HE: 8-12-2), T-9th place

Losses: F Devin Shore, D Ben Hutton, D Jake Rutt, F Connor Leen, F Stu Higgins, F Andrew Cerratani

Newcomers: D Rob Michel, F Justin Rai, F Dane Gibson, D Keith Muehlbauer, D Stephen Cochrane, F Brendan Robbins, D Sam Becker, F Daniel Perez, G Rob McGovern

After a largely successful first season under Coach Red Gendron that saw Maine finish 6th in Hockey East, last year was a frustrating one for the Black Bears. For a young team looking to take another step forward, a tie for 9th place in the conference hardly offered much to be excited about. Sure, there were questions about the defense following the departure of senior goaltender Martin Ouellette, but Maine played through the season without finding much of a solution. Alternating time in net between freshman Sean Romeo and junior Matt Morris, the Black Bears allowed 3.26 goals per game; second worst in Hockey East.

This season figures to hold many of the same struggles for Maine. With the departure of defensemen Ben Hutton to the pros and Jake Rutt to graduation, the Black Bears will continue to rely on youth, including four incoming freshman, to hold down a weak defensive line. One to keep an eye out for is Sam Becker, who put up 8 goals and 40 assists for the Minnesota Magicians of the NAHL last season. In net, freshman goaltender Rob McGovern, who has excelled in the USPHL, will also be one to key in on, and figures to see time in net this season along with Romeo and Morris, as Gendron will search for answers.

On the offensive end, Maine goes forward without Devin Shore, their team leader in goals (14) and assists (21), who left for the pros. Still, this is a team that has other options. They will be led by upperclassmen Cam Brown, Steven Swavely, and Blaine Byron. They will need to perform well if Maine expects to be competitive this year. Additionally, the Black Bears hope that sophomore Nolan Vesey will take another big step forward this season, after scoring 10 goals and providing 13 assists as a freshman.

Bottom line: Offensively, the Black Bears have some established pieces that will be able to carry this team through the season. Still, Maine will continue to face growing pains this season on the defensive end that will struggle to hold up in the tough Hockey East. Coach Gendron has plenty of young options though, so look for this team to start to find its way as the season progresses.

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