Hockey East Preview – University of Maine Black Bears

By: James Duffy

Head Co6108_maine_black_bears-secondary-1999ach – Red Gendron, 4th season

Last Season – 8-24-6 (5-15-2 in Hockey East, 11th); Lost in first round of conference playoffs to Northeastern

Losses – F Steven Swavely, F Andrew Tegeler, F Will Merchant, D Bill Norman, D Conor Reilly

Newcomers – F Jake Pappalardo, F Mitchell Fossier, F Chase Pearson, F Tim Doherty, F Ryan Smith, F Patrick Shea, D Patrick Holoway, G Stephen Mundinger

For the third time in the last four years, the Black Bears found themselves with a record below .500. Once a force to be reckoned with, last year Maine was little more than a doorstep for most teams. After three ties to start the season, they rattled off nine straight losses. Their first win of the season didn’t come until November 20, and by that point they had already dropped their first five conference games. The season ended just like it started for Maine, as they lost nine of their final ten games of the year.

Maine’s abysmal offense sunk them last season, and they graduated three of their top six leading scorers in the offseason. They managed 76 goals last season, 53rd out of 60 teams in the nation, and now-graduated seniors netted 27 of those goals. Norman and Reilly were essentially non-factors on the team, bouncing between the blue line and fourth line. Between Swavely, the captain, and Merchant and Reilly, alternates, the Black Bears lost leadership as well as scoring.

Luckily for Maine, their nine man incoming class is comprised mostly of forwards. Chase Pearson, the 140th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and Patrick Shea, the 192nd pick in 2015, lead the way up front. Both are very raw prospects, with a lot of untapped potential that Red Gendron should be able to drill into. Defenseman Patrick Holoway was another big addition for Maine, literally and figuratively. The 6-foot-4 defenseman was picked in the 6th round of the 2015 draft by Detroit, and possesses a strong offensive game from the blue line. Goalie Stephen Mundinger stands even taller, at 6-foot-8, but will have a hard time cracking the starting lineup. Sophomore goalie Rob McGovern seems to have a hold on the starting gig, with senior Matt Morris backing him up.

Maine doesn’t have a lot to look forward to next season. With Merchant gone, they’ll turn to seniors Cam Brown and Blaine Byron to carry the offense. They’ll also be looking at Nolan Vesey to rebound after a major regression in his sophomore year. Vesey posted 23 points as a freshman, but managed just 11 last season. They still remain weak on defense and in goal, though. Maine allowed 3.39 goals per game last year, and neither McGovern nor Morris was particularly sharp along the way.

Bottom Line – A far cry from the powerhouse they used to be, the Black Bears will spend another year in the basement of Hockey East. They have almost no reliable offense, and less reliable goaltending. Climbing as high as 9th in the conference would be a successful season in Orono.

 

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