2020–21 Men’s Hockey East Preview: Maine Black Bears

Last season: 18–11–5 (12–9–3, fourth in Hockey East)

Head coach: Red Gendron (eighth season)

Preseason poll projected finish: Ninth

Departures: G Jeremy Swayman, F Mitchell Fossier, F Tim Doherty, F Patrick Shea, F Ryan Smith, F Samuel Rennaker, G Stephen Mundinger

Additions: F Keenan Suthers, D Kabore Dunn, F Tristan Poissant, F Donovan Villenueve-Houle, F Zachary Aughe, F Lynden Breen, F Brad Morrissey, F John Mulera, G Victor Ostman, G Connor Androlewicz

By Mike Puzzanghera

Maine overperformed last year on the back of Jeremy Swayman, the top goaltender in the country. They got solid output from Mitchell Fossier, Tim Doherty, and Eduards Tralmaks in the offensive zone. But unfortunately for the Black Bears, three of those four are not returning.

Swayman, last year’s Richter Award winner (best college goalie) signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins after a year in which he backstopped Maine all the way to home ice in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs. It was the program’s highest finish in eight years.

Fossier and Doherty made up most of Maine’s offense, so losing them is also a big blow. The two combined for 24 goals and 55 assists in 2019–20 and led the first line together. The Black Bears need increased production from Tralmaks (30 points last year) and Adam Dawe (20) to replace them.

Toronto Maple Leafs draftee JD Greenway is the big name on defense. After playing two seasons at Wisconsin, Greenway transferred to Orono and played well, racking up 10 points and blocking 33 shots. He’ll need to limit his time in the box (21 penalties for 61 minutes last season), but he has shown his ability when he can stay on the ice.

The big question mark is in net. Swayman started 33 of 34 games last season and notched a .939 save percentage, while backup goalie Matthew Theissen gave up three goals in seven minutes of action in his only start. Theissen, a 2018 Vancouver Canucks draftee, will surely take on some of those minutes, but he needs to improve on his rough performance from last year. Freshman Victor Ostman may also take some of that ice time; the 6’4” goalie posted a .913 save percentage with the Chicago Steel in the USHL last season.

Bottom Line: Losing a Richter Award winner is tough to overcome for any team, but with Maine’s low offensive output, the loss of Swayman becomes even greater. If everything clicks, the Black Bears could make the Hockey East Tournament. But in all likelihood, they’ll have to fight hard to avoid the cellar.

Hockey East Preview: Maine Black Bears

Last Season: 15–17–4 (11–9–4 HE, sixth place); Lost in HE quarterfinals 

Head Coach: Red Gendron (seventh season)

Coaches’ Poll Projected Finish: Eighth

Losses

  • G Rob McGovern 
  • D Sam Becker
  • D Brady Keeper
  • D Rob Michel
  • D Keith Muehlbauer
  • F Canon Pieper
  • F Brendan Robbins
  • F Daniel Perez
  • F Chase Pearson

Additions

  • G Matthew Thiessen
  • D Levi Kleiboer
  • D  J.D. Greenway
  • D Perry Winfree
  • D Adrien Bisson
  • F Ben Poisson
  • F Brady Gaudette
  • F Dawson Bruenski
  • F Remy Parker

By Matthew Cunha

In the last two years, Red Gendron’s Black Bears finished sixth after several seasons as Hockey East bottom-feeders. The improvement was largely due to goalie Jeremy Swayman, who made the All-Hockey East third team last season and posted a 2.78 GAA and .919 save percentage. Last season, the fourth-round Boston Bruins prospect often bailed out the Black Bears.

Big blows came this offseason with the departures of Chase Pearson and Brady Keeper to the pros. Pearson and Keeper finished second and third in scoring for the Black Bears, combining for 52 points. 

The good news for Maine is the return of senior Mitchell Fossier. Fossier led Maine in scoring for the second straight season with 36 points, good for seventh in Hockey East. Fossier was the clear-cut choice to captain the Black Bears this season. He will be assisted by seniors Ryan Smith and Tim Doherty (fourth in scoring last season) and junior Jack Quinlivan. 

The nine newcomers for the Black Bears are highlighted by junior J.D. Greenway, the 72nd pick in the 2016 draft (Toronto Maple Leafs) and the brother of Minnesota Wild’s Jordan Greenway. J.D. played two seasons at the University of Wisconsin (10 points in 46 career games) before losing playing time and deciding to play junior hockey. The 6’5” defensemen should add clarity, structure, steadiness, and a veteran presence to the Black Bears’ back end, though his experience at Wisconsin is a bit concerning.

Another addition Northeastern fans will notice is freshman Brady Gaudette, the brother of former Northeastern Husky and Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette. Brady comes to Maine after a year of playing junior hockey.

Bottom Line: Maine seems destined for the middle of the pack once again thanks to Swayman, who now has talented defenseman J.D. Greenway in front of him. Outside of Fossier, the Black Bears will have a hard time putting the puck in the net after the losses of Pearson and Kepper to the pros. If the freshmen can’t score the offense could go downhill fast, but Swayman is good enough to get this team back in sixth place with another first-round exit.