Vendula Pribylova skates past a Vermont defender. File photo

The University of Maine women’s hockey team finished out their season on March 3 when they fell to the Northeastern University Huskies in the Women’s Hockey East Association (WHEA) Semifinals, 2-1. The team finished with an overall record of 19-14-5, going 10-6-3 in conference play. The Black Bears celebrated their first WHEA playoff win in history against Boston University and also broke the record for the most wins in a season in Maine women’s hockey history with 18.

Compared to last season, Maine has made some significant improvements. In the 2016-2017 season, the Black Bears finished ninth in conference play, whereas this season, they moved up to the No. 3 seed in the conference and were ranked No. 10 nationally by the USCHO poll.

As for individual awards, first-year Anna Zikova was named to the Women’s Hockey East Pro-Ambitions All-Rookie Team. Zikova was a big part of the conference’s second-best scoring defense, while also contributing to conference’s third-best penalty kill (86.8 percent). She finished the season with two goals and 11 assists, for a total of 13 points.

Captain and third-year defender Alyson Matteau and second-year forward Tereza Vanisova were selected to the Hockey East Second Team All-Stars. For the second year in a row, Matteau led the team in blocks, with 72. She finished the season with five goals and 10 assists. Vanisova is ranked No. 12 in the top leading scorers in the country, finishing off the season with 16 goals.

Second-year goaltender Carly Jackson was named to the Hockey East All-Star Honorable Mentions. Jackson ended the regular season with the lowest goals against average (GAA) in Hockey East (1.88).

“I think we had a really great season and we took some big steps as a program. There are areas that we’ll work on individually and as a group but going into the off-season, we are more than capable of getting where we want to be and I’m extremely excited to see the next level that we can take it to as a team,” Jackson said.

Head Coach Richard Reichenbach won the Hockey East Coach of the Year Award, making him the first ever Maine women’s hockey coach to be selected.

“I am proud of the team and development and steps they made to improve as a team. They found a level of consistency in how they played as a team that led to them winning the most games in program history,” Coach Reichenbach said.

The past few seasons for the Black Bears have not been nearly as successful as this past one; however, it is important to stay positive in times of struggle.

“Our belief and expectation was that we had a team that could win a Hockey East Championship, but we did not meet our expectation of what we believed our team could do,” Reichenbach said.

Brooke Stacey, Mikayla Rogers, Victoria Hummel, Catherine Tufts and Kristin Gilmour all finished their college careers this season, and the Black Bears will be looking to their incoming first-year students to help fill those voids.

“I think overall we had an amazing season, we all hoped for it to be longer. But despite losing in the semifinals, we were all very proud of our performance what we accomplished this year,” Stacey said.

It is easy to say that this Black Bear women’s hockey team had a successful 2017-2018 campaign, but there is always room for more.

“Expectations will be the same going into next year, to win championships. We will change, learn and grow as a program to help put the team in the best position to do so next season. Defensively we were strong throughout the season, we need to grow offensively in our ability to score on the power play and consistently throughout our entire forward group and from the point,” Reichenbach said.

The Black Bears will be looking to build off of this year’s success when hockey season returns to the Alfond Arena next fall.

“Every season is extremely unique in how our team changes and the strengths of other teams in the league. We are always changing and growing as a program to be better. Next season, we think the incoming freshmen will add size both on forward and defense, many with national team playing experience. With their size and strength, they will be used to playing against elite competition and have the skill to contribute offensively from game one,” Reichenbach said.