Since the departure of Devin Shore a year ahead of schedule in 2015, the University of Maine Black Bears hockey team has not had the presence of a natural scorer, or someone who possesses the skills and ability to take over a game in the waning moments. While the season is still young, the Black Bears have a lot to see to in first-year forward Mitchell Fossier, who leads the team in points through 10 games.
Fossier has tallied all three of the Black Bears game-winning goals this season, including the goal that gave Maine the 4-3 upset victory over then No. 3 Quinnipiac in overtime on homecoming weekend in Orono. Though the sample size is small, Fossier is already proving himself as a clutch performer early in his collegiate career.
“To hear the crowd explode was incredible, and to come back and pull off that win was huge,” Fossier said of his game-winning goal. “It was definitely a really cool moment.”
Not only is Fossier often in the right place at the right time (and able to find the back of the net), according to his teammates, his early success is coming organically. Maine is a young team overall, but their longest-tenured and most experienced players have been meshing favorably on the ice with Fossier since he entered the program over the offseason.
“He is a gifted player,” fourth-year defender and assistant captain Eric Schurhamer said. “[Fossier] works well with everyone on the team and is just one of those players who is easy to play with.”
While only skating with Fossier for a handful of games, even the team captain has noticed Fossier’s uncanny ability to not only get open, but bury the puck.
“Mitch [Fossier] is very skilled and has a great hockey sense,” fourth-year forward and captain Cam Brown said. “He is able to open up space for himself in situations where you think he has no space.”
From there, it’s just catch, shoot and score — which Fossier has done a team-leading six times for the Black Bears this season. His nine points are good enough for 11th in the Hockey East conference thus far and his prowess for finding twine is the best on the squad.
Fossier has six goals on 25 shots so far this season, meaning he’s scoring roughly one goal in every four shots he takes on net. Couple that with 3.12 shots on net per game and Fossier is close to averaging a goal in each contest he plays in.
For the veterans of Maine’s squad, the addition of Fossier, his impressive performances and the rest of Maine’s young front line talent couldn’t have come at a better time for the Black Bears program as a whole. Maine recruited seven forwards coming into this season and Fossier is proving to be the cream of the crop.
“His scoring is crucial and has proved to be crucial in many games so far this year. We have struggled to produce offense sometimes in the past, and he has helped us diminish that,” Brown said.
Fossier and first-year forward Chase Pearson (4 goals, 1 assist) highlight a freshman class that Maine hopes will bring them out of a longstanding streak of losing seasons. This class will get plenty of chances to battle for ice time throughout their tenures in the program and for those who have already made Head Coach Red Gendron’s starting lineup, their impacts have been felt immediately.
“Our freshman class has had a lot of opportunity so far, and we expect ourselves to make a big impact for our team,” Fossier said.
Despite the early successes, the addition of Maine’s first-year talents did not sway the perceptions of national pundits, many of which picked Maine to finish last in Hockey East. However, for Fossier and the rest of the Black Bears squad, these write-offs are bulletin board material.
“We certainly keep those predictions in the back of our minds and use it to fuel the fire,” Fossier said. “We think we can and will be an elite team in our conference, and we are going to do everything we can to prove that.”
Fossier and the Black Bears get their next shot this weekend when they face off in a home-at-home series with Hockey East foe the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 in Orono before both teams travel to Lowell for a matinee game at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.