Last Season: 18-16-4 (10-11-3 in HE, tied for 5th); Lost to Providence in HE Quarterfinals
Losses: Nolan Vesey (F); Cedric Lacroix (F); Malcolm Hayes (F); Mark Hamilton (D)
Additions: Adam Dawe (F); Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (F); Edward Lindelow (F); A.J. Drobot (F); Dallas Farrell (F); Kyle Kawamura (F); Craig Needham (F); Simon Butala (D); Levi Kleiboer (D); Jack Moran (D);
Projected Finish: 5th
by Matt Neiser
If there’s one word to describe the Maine Black Bears’ men’s hockey team this year, it’s experienced. A team that was full of young faces last year meant Maine couldn’t make significant noise down the stretch, but it spells trouble for the other teams in the league this year. Those young players are still around, and now they have tons of playing time under their belt.
The Black Bears return 11 of their top 12 scorers from last season, as well as 7 of 8 defenders. Forward Nolan Vesey, the team’s T-3rd leading scorer, is the only significant offensive loss Maine faces. Junior forwards Mitchell Fossier (5th in Hockey East) and Chase Pearson — first and second in scoring for the team last year respectively– are only bound to improve upon their already impressive sophomore campaigns.
The back line of Maine will be anchored by sophomore Brady Keeper and senior Rob Michel, who both generated a significant amount of points last season. Keeper in particular is someone to watch this year. As a freshman last year, the young defender scored 6 and assisted 16, good enough for the sixth highest points total on the team. Keeper also generated a ridiculous plus-minus of +17, good enough for T-25th in the nation while playing significant minutes in only his first year of college hockey. Look for Keeper to be heavily involved if the Black Bears succeed this season.
One of the only real question marks on this Maine team will be if last year’s success was a fluke or the real deal. Maine was pretty much the consensus last-ranked team in the preseason last year, meaning they shattered expectations by finishing where they did. This was mainly due to the unpredictability of young players at the college level, but the Black Bears’ young cubs did more than enough last season to assure people that their success will continue into the 2018-2019 campaign.
Bottom Line: The Maine Black Bears exceeded expectations last year, finishing well above where they were predicted to in Hockey East. With an almost completely intact core from last season, there’s no reason to believe that trend won’t continue. It will take quite the effort to unseat some of the top dogs in the league, but look for the Bears to make some waves this year if Fossier, Keeper, and the rest of the crew continue to improve the way they have up to this point. A trip to at least the semi-finals in the Hockey East tournament isn’t out of the question for Maine, who dropped out a round earlier last year at the hands of Providence.