It's shaping up to be a long winter up in Orono.
A year removed from the program's second sub-.500 record in three years, the Black Bears will attempt to right the ship this season without the assistance of 2013-14 Second Team All-Americans in forward Devin Shore and defenseman Ben Hutton, as both skaters signed NHL deals with the Stars and Canucks, respectively.
Maine still has a solid group of forwards in Steven Swavely, Cam Brown, Nolan Vesey and Blaine Byron, but the biggest question for Maine lies in their defense — both on the blue line and in net.
Looking to add some physicality to a squad that ranked 51st out of 59 Division I programs in goals allowed per game (3.26), Maine's freshmen class features seven players measuring out at 6-foot-2 or higher — punctuated by 6-foot-6 defenseman Stephen Cochrane out of the USPHL.
Despite skating out both a larger defensive corps and a steady grouping of productive forwards, the Black Bears will struggle to claw their way out of the conference basement if they cannot establish some consistency in goal between junior Matt Morris (7-9-2, 2.99 GAA) and sophomore Sean Romeo (7-13-1, 3.04 GAA).
By Jeff Cox
Red Gendron is hoping a bigger and heavier defense will protect one of three goaltenders he will run out each night in his third year at the helm in Orono. The verdict is still out on how successful the recruiting philosophy will be, but one thing is for certain. Maine will hope to play a physical, aggressive and challenging game each night out.
Despite losing Shore and Hutton to the pros a year early, Gendron is optimistic his team will be deeper and more prepared to not break down in the third period this season.
Blaine Byron, Cam Brown, Nolan Vesey and Steven Swavely will have to take steps in their offensive games to keep the Black Bears in games. Another player to watch is senior Will Merchant, a former top prospect out of Minnesota, who finally showed signs of fulfilling the hype in the second half of last season.