Hockey East Previews: Maine Black Bears
Last Year: 23-14-3 (15-10-2), 4th in Hockey East. Lost Hockey East final to Boston College, lost to UMD in first round of NCAA tournament
What Happened: After finishing fifth in 2011-12, Maine reclaimed its traditional spot in the top four of Hockey East last year. It was not all smooth sailing for the Black Bears though, as they started off the season 3-6-2. Backed by the scoring exploits of trio Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond, Maine compiled a strong second half record, losing only four games after the December break. In the playoffs, the Black Bears earned revenge against Merrimack for the previous year’s playoff defeat, quite literally fighting their way to the Garden. Despite losing in the Hockey East Championship game to Boston College, Maine still earned a trip to the NCAA tournament where they were ousted in the first round.
- Spencer Abbott (F) – Anyone who had doubts about whether Abbott would match his 2010-11 output of 40 points needn’t have. His mark of 21 goals was impressive enough, but the 41 assists he racked up elevated the play of everyone around him, particularly on the man advantage. Abbott had 27 assists for Maine’s league-best power play. He was truly the catalyst for the offense and power play last year, and it will be a huge task for the Black Bears to replace him.
- Brian Flynn (F) – Flynn improved on a strong junior season by compiling a line of 18-30-48 in his final year in Orono. It was the second time he broke the 40 point mark as a Black Bear. Losing Flynn’s production, which earned him a Hockey East First-Team All-Star selection, is another blow to a weakened Maine offense.
- Will O’Neill (D) – O’Neill proved himself to be a strong all-around defenseman in his four years at Maine, building a reputation as a physical player while proving to be a great puck mover. O’Neill had 20 or more assists twice in his career, including 30 this year. His departure creates a big hole on defense for the Black Bears.
- Matt Mangene (F/D) – He may have been a bit overshadowed by Abbott, Flynn and Diamond, but Mangene had a surprisingly great year as a junior in 2011-12. After posting 10 points as a sophomore, the versatile forward/defenseman had 16 goals and 18 assists. Those numbers caught the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers, who signed Mangene to a professional contract after the season.
- Joey Diamond (F) – It is not all bad news for Maine on offense in 2012-13. Diamond returns for his senior season, looking to prove his line of 25-22-47 was not an aberration. He also racked up a team-leading 117 PIMs, an ugly statistic that Tim Whitehead will want him to improve. He can’t be the offensive leader the Black Bears need him to be if he is sitting in the penalty box.
- Kyle Beattie (F) – Beattie is another player who the Black Bears will need to improve upon a strong junior season. Beattie had 21 assists last year, second-highest among returning skaters. His ability to continue building on that success is one of the biggest questions facing Maine heading into this year.
- Adam Shemansky (F) – Shemansky was a surprise for the Black Bears in 2012-13. He quadrupled his offensive output from his sophomore to junior year, going from five to 21 points. Maine will need him to perform at an even higher level this season.
Outlook: The Black Bears have a lot of pressing issues to address this upcoming year. The now-departed Abbott, Flynn, Mangene and O’Neill accounted for 48 percent of Maine’s offense last year, Ryan Hegarty is a loss on defense and there are questions about Dan Sullivan’s ability to replicate last season’s performance. In an attempt to address some of these questions, Tim Whitehead has uncharacteristically decided to bring in four recruits with 93/94 birthdays. If Maine gets some production from newcomers Devin Shore, Will Merchant and Ryan Lomberg it will make the loss of four standouts slightly easier to bear.
- Ben Horner