The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team is currently as hot as they’ve ever been. The Black Bears are knocking on the door of the top of Hockey East standings, sitting directly behind the Terriers of Boston University and the Eagles of Boston College. With the two teams playing each other three times in two weeks, it presents a golden opportunity for the Black Bears to move up in the standings, and with only 12 games to go, every point matters.
Sitting at 16-4-2, the Black Bears are primed for a potential Hockey East Championship appearance at TD Garden. Should the Black Bears secure one of the three first-round byes, only one win would be needed to reach the Hockey East playoff semi-final at TD Garden, and it would be the first time since 2012 that the Black Bears reached the final four teams in the Hockey East playoffs.
That success hasn’t come overnight. Players like fifth-year forward Ben Poisson and fourth-year forward and team captain Lynden Breen have endured very difficult years that were as recent as the 2021 season campaign, where the Black Bears struggled mightily, resulting in winning a total of just seven games.
The program has seen a lot of overturns. Ben Barr is currently in his third season as the head coach for the Black Bears. Barr has done an incredible job stepping into the shoes of the late legendary Black Bear head coach, Red Gendry. Barr has a prolific history of seeing him. bring the University of Massachusetts a National Championship in 2021. His impact on the Black Bears hasn’t taken very long to come to life, and the result is showing on the ice.
The chemistry has glowed throughout Alfond Arena this past year. We don’t have to look any further than the dynamic brother that has taken Maine Ice Hockey by storm. Brothers Josh and Bradly Nadeau have dominated opposing defenses. Josh Nadeau currently leads his younger brother by one point (32 and 31, respectively), and along with Lyndon Breen, the three first-line forwards all average more than a point per game. The performances throughout the year earned all three young men a spot in the 2024 Hobey Baker finalist ballet, which will be decided in early February.
While nothing is taken for granted, the hype and success that the Black Bears have brought this season has spread throughout the school. Student lines increase every game, and tickets sell out weeks in advance. Alfond Arena has become one of the most daunting places for opposing teams to play in, and it’s only gotten more difficult this year, from the strong play on the ice to the strong support in the stands. With only 12 games left, few opportunities remain for the Black Bears to acquire points. Last year, the Black Bears limped into the playoffs on a losing streak and lost their opening-round matchup to bottom-ranked Vermont. It’s extremely important for the boys on the ice to stay in stride and ride this moment into the playoffs. Because if they’re not careful, it can all be gone at the snap of a finger.