The University of Maine Club Hockey team will hit the ice for the first time this season on Oct. 12 against the U-18 Wave.
Coming off a sub-par 1-18-1 record, the Black Bears look to improve drastically this season, despite the team still being dominated by youth.
“I think this is the best talent level we’ve had in the past four years,” said team president Brett Radosti. The senior forward led the team with 23 points last season, scoring 12 goals to go along with 11 assists. Radosti played in all 20 games for Black Bears and will be the player the team will look to for leadership this season.
The Black Bears should be a lot more competitive not just against other teams, but against each other.
“Because of the talent level there will be a lot of competition this year in practice between players trying to battle for playing time,” Radosti said.
The team’s vice president, junior defenseman Ben Gagnon, has been working all offseason on getting the team a more convenient and travel friendly schedule to help with expenses.
“The schedule was a lot more difficult last year especially with such a young team. We only have to go as far as Providence [R.I.] this year instead of New Jersey and New York. However, we do still have a young team this year but we have an easier schedule and less traveling should help us,” Gagnon said.
Still, the more convenient schedule is no easy task, the Black Bears play in one of the hardest conferences out there.
“Although we have it easier with travel, we’re still in a really tough conference,” Gagnon continued.
“I would say we are in the top one or two conferences in the east coast. So the teams we play are some of the best competition out there,” Radosti added.
And despite being in one of the more competitive conferences, there’s still no doubt in Radosti or Gagnon’s minds that this team is has what it takes to turn things around.
“We should have a winning record this year — 100 percent, no doubt,” Radosti said. “Our goal for the season is to be right there at the neck of the playoffs.”
With five other teams in the Black Bears’ division, they’ll need to beat at least two of them to have a chance to make the playoffs.
Radosti also said the team expects big things from sophomore forward Connor Shea. Shea was second on the team in points, tallying five goals and six assists in his rookie season.
“Connor did really well last year as a freshman so we’re definitely looking for big things out of him this year,” Radosti said.
The Black Bears will only return a solid goalie this season, Zach Leduc. They expect him to have a strong year for them this year as well.
“Zach is just really good,” Gagnon said. “He’ll also be a mentor to freshmen goalies this year,” he added.
The Black Bears have to overcome another coaching change again this year. Matt Boehmer, a former club player himself, will take over as head coach for this season.
“It is his first time coaching, but Matt was on the team the first year it started and played for five years. So he’s been through it all and really knows how everything works already,” Radosti said. “He’s been around the game long enough and has seen our competition and will definitely do a good job as coach.
Another thing Radosti and Gagnon touched on is the trouble with expenses and planning that the team has had to overcome.
“We are hosting a golf tournament, which took over four months to plan. We do other things like bottle drives and talk to businesses. Really just anything we can to help cover the costs to travel and to be able to play in these games,” Radosti said.
The club hockey team’s first home game will be on Oct. 20 at the Alfond Arena against Southern New Hampshire University. It will be the first of three straight games at home, as the team will play Oct. 21 against the University of New Hampshire and Oct. 28 against Long Island University. The time of the games are to be determined.
The team’s fundraiser golf tournament is on Sunday, Sept. 23, at 8 a.m. It will cost $75 per person and includes a free meal and a silent auction. Contact Brett Radosti or Ben Gagnon on FirstClass for details, or call 207-651-8524.