The graduation of seniors Will Merchant and Steven Swavely left the Maine Men’s Ice Hockey team looking for new leadership. Third-year Dan Renouf, a standout defenseman from the previous season, signed an amateur try-out contract with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League, disqualifying himself for NCAA eligibility. Needless to say, this year is a transition year for the Black Bears. For one thing, it is the first year Head Coach Red Gendron will be coaching players he recruited himself. After many seasons of disappointing Hockey East finishes, we might finally see some success on the ice at the Alfond this winter.
The Black Bears return fourth-years Cam Brown and Blaine Byron. Byron was UMaine’s top point earner last season with 24 points, followed by Merchant with 22. Brown came in third for points, scoring eight goals and 12 assists. Gendron will certainly look towards Brown and Byron to lead the Black Bears to a winning season this year.
The Black Bears also return second-year Brendan Robbins to the forward lines. Last year he played in 36 games for UMaine, logging four goals and seven assists. Third-year Nolan Vesey also had an 11-point season, scoring five goals and helping on six others. Last season, Vesey finished on a five-game point streak. Look to Vesey and Robbins to make a solid impact this year for the Black Bears.
Second-year goalie Rob McGovern also returns to net for Maine. Last year, McGovern played in 20 games, allowed 2.78 goals per game and logged a .905 save percentage. McGovern’s greatest performance came against North Dakota, a college hockey playoff perennial, when he made 44 saves on his way to a 1-1 tie.
McGovern will be competing with redshirt third-year Matt Morris. Morris played in 23 games last season, allowed 3.54 goals per game and recorded a .901 save percentage. In a game versus Providence College, Morris set a career high 50 saves. Morris had a better record (6-10-3) than McGovern (2-14-3). It will be interesting to see who gets the nod this season.
What is the most promising for Maine are the freshmen this year. Ryan Smith, a forward from Roanoke, Va., is coming off a 24 point season in the USHL. Smith played for Team USA in a U18 international tournament in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Tyler Johnson is adding depth to the goalie roster. Johnson and his Topeka Roadrunners of the NAHL recorded a 20-13 record with Johnson logging a .907 save percentage. Johnson and Smith were both signed during the National Letter of Intent Signing period last April.
Tim Doherty, a left-winger from Portsmouth, R.I. played for the Boston Jr. Bruins last season. Throughout his career in juniors, Doherty totaled 61 goals and 77 assists for 138 points. He earned this impressive total and only played in 117 games.
Chase Pearson is an exciting pick for Maine. Pearson, a center currently playing for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL stands at 6 feet 2 inches and weighs in at 187 pounds. Pearson was selected in the 5th round by the Detroit Red Wings. Look for Pearson to use his size in the faceoff circle to UMaine’s advantage.
Also headed to the Detroit Red Wings is Patrick Holway, another UMaine freshman this year. Holway measures 6 feet 4 inches and 201 pounds and will certainly be an enforcer this year on the D-line. UMaine picked up one more NHL prospect in Patrick Shea. Shea is coming off a season with Kimball Union Academy, tallying 19 goals and helping on 20 others in just 33 games. Shea was selected by the Florida Panthers in the 7th round of the 2015 Draft.
Jake Pappalardo from Salem, N.H., is an offensive powerhouse recording 101 points in 64 games for Proctor Academy. Pappalardo rounds out a group of freshman that will be looking to lift UMaine back to former glory.
This year’s team is young. There are 10 freshmen are featured on the roster. The four seniors will need to groom them while they can before they graduate in the spring. Expect that the first-years will make an important impact for the UMaine hockey team this season.