The University of Maine Black Bears Men’s Hockey team opened their season and faced off against the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Engineers on Thursday and Friday. While the Engineers fought hard in both games, the Black Bears dominated on both sides of the ice, winning handily 4-1 and 6-3.
UMaine finished last season with a record of 15-16-5, losing in the first round of the playoffs against rival University of Vermont 4-2. RPI finished last season with a record of 14-20-1.
In game one, it was the Engineers who scored the first point of the season as on the power play, fifth-year defenseman CJ Regula scored with a wrist shot to the net off of an assist from second-year forward Sutter Muzzatti, and RPI held the 1-0 lead after one period.
While RPI scored first, it would be all Black Bears from that point forward, dominating time of possession for the rest of the game. In his first game with UMaine, 2023 NHL first-round draft pick and first-year forward Bradly Nadeau scored on a close slapshot near the goal assisted by his brother, first-year forward Josh Nadeau, and second-year defenseman Grayson Arnott. Bradly Nadeau would score once more on the power play on the doorstep, thanks to a feed from fourth-year forward Lynden Breen and second-year forward Thomas Freel to make it 2-1.
With just two seconds left in the second, it appeared that Bradly Nadeau scored a hattrick as his slapshot got past third-year goaltender Josh Watson. However, RPI’s head coach, Dave Smith, challenged the call, and on review, 42 seconds before the goal, the puck hit the back net, resulting in the goal being waved off and keeping the score at 2-0 going into the third.
It took just 17 seconds into the third to get the goal back, as after winning the faceoff, Breen would get the pick back on the doorstep and score with assists from the Nadeau brothers.
Thirty-one seconds later, third-year forward Nolan Renwick would save the game as he scored off the fast break from fifth-year forward Ben Poisson and second-year defenseman Brandon Chabrier.
Bradly Nadeau would have a shot at his hat trick once more on a 2-1 fast break, though he would collide with the official, preventing that from happening.
“Sometimes you catch them off guard, but I think we have a good team this year, and we have a lot of great shooters, so when you shoot, and you go to the net, good things happen,” Bradly Nadeau said after the game.
UMaine dominated offensively, outshooting RPI 57-13 in the game, as the Engineers did not have a shot on net in the second period until four minutes left. Fourth-year goaltender Victor Ostman rarely saw the puck but easily saved all 12 shots he saw. Watson would have his moments, but no team will win when you give up 57 shots on goal. The Black Bears dominated on faceoffs as well, going 37-20.
“We started off shaky,” head coach Ben Barr said after Thursday. “The puck was bouncing around, and we took unnecessary risks, but we settled down, and we did our thing.”
UMaine struck first on Friday as, on the power play, Josh Nadeau scored the first goal of his collegiate career. Breen’s shot hit second-year goaltender Carson Cherepaks’ skates, and Josh Nadeau was able to tip it in for the score.
Four minutes later, third-year forward Harrison Stott found the back of the net from the right face-off spot, and his snap-shot put the Black Bears up 2-0 thanks to assists from first-year forward Reid Pabich and Freel. RPI responded before the end of the first as fourth-year forward Jake Gagnon scored on a 2-1 fast break while on the penalty kill, making it a 2-1 game going into the second.
In the second, UMaine found themselves on a 5-3 powerplay opportunity. First-year defenseman Brandon Holt found Breen, who set up the one-timer for Josh Nadeau to score his second goal of the night. With just 20 seconds left in the second, the Black Bears would go up by three, as after Breens’ shot missed, Cherepaks was out of position for Arnott to score the snapshot goal, making it 4-1 heading into the final period.
After playing well throughout the first two periods, UMaine started to play carelessly. It took just 14 seconds for RPI to score in the third as second-year defenseman Lucas Matta scored on a wide-open shot from just inside the blue line unassisted to make it a 4-2 game. The Black Bears retained their three-point lead as fourth-year forward Donavan Villeneuve-Houle tapped the puck in from right near the doorstop with assists from Poisson and third-year defenseman David Breazeale. RPI was not about to go away as Gagnon scored from in between the circles, making it a 5-3 game, though UMaine would end the game after Poisson scored on an open netter after the Engineers pulled their goalie, securing the 6-3 victory.
“We knew they were going to bounce back,” Josh Nadeau said after the game. “We were expecting that, and we just had to adjust to their playing today.”
“[RPI] definitely played much better, ” coach Barr said after the game. “We did not play our best hockey, but I thought they played much harder. It is difficult to win back-to-back games.”
UMaine will head on the road next to face the defending national champions, the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, on Oct. 27 and 28 before returning home on Nov. 10 to face the Boston College Eagles, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.