Hockey East Preview: #6 Maine Black Bears
2011-12 Storyline: Maine returns to the NCAA tournament after a four year absence; Black Bear fans still unhappy with the coach
2012-13 Storyline: Too many losses up front relegates Maine to the bottom half of Hockey East in 2012-13
Player To Watch: Joey Diamond F (25-22-47)
Player Missed Most: Spencer Abbott G (21-41-62)
Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Devin Shore F
Random Fact: Much maligned head coach Tim Whitehead is signed through 2013-14
Beer The Triangle Favorite Local Brew: I’m going to give a shoutout to Oxbow Brewing, which can be found in Newcastle on the way up 95 to Orono. I first was introduced to their Loretta last winter at the Great Lost Bear in Portland on the way home from a road trip to Alfond. However by chance I ended up meeting one of the co-owners/brewers in Santa Rosa, CA at the legendary Russian River Brewing over the summer. Give these farmhouse fiends a try.
Maine had some of the top offensive players in the country last season in the form of Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn, and Joey Diamond. Unfortunately they only return one of those three, and that’s why I think the Black Bears will take a significant step back this season. The pesky Diamond is coming back, but it’s unknown if he can match his 25 goal, 22 assist effort from last year without the ultra-talented Flynn and Abbott by his side. The Black Bears will need significant contributions from Adam Shemansky and Mark Antoine to keep pace with what they were able to accomplish last year.
Maine will have some significant holes to fill on defense as well. Gone are the constants of Will O’Neil and Ryan Hegarty as well as defenseman/forward Matt Mangene who signed a pro contract rather than return for his senior year. They won’t be entirely without experience though as Nick Pryor is more than capable of holding his own in the league. Fellow seniors Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec will look to build off of strong seasons last year as well.
Dan Sullivan’s play last year solidified his standing as the go to goaltender in Orono as he had a 2.59 GAA and the third best winning percentage in the league. This was a huge step up from his freshman season where neither he or Martin Ouellette did much to distinguished themselves. Sullivan will have to be at the top of his game from the start as the Black Bears will be looking to work a lot of newcomers into the defensive crew in front of him.
They’ll Finish Lower Because: Diamond can’t get near his prior year’s total without his old linemates.
They’ll Finish Higher Because: Shemansky and incoming freshmen such as Drew Shore and Will Merchant are able to contribute to the scoring effort from the get go.
Fear The Triangle Fearless Hockey East Predictions
6. Maine Black Bears
7. Massachusetts Minutemen (preview upcoming)
8. Merrimack Warriors
9. Northeastern Huskies
10. Vermont Catamounts
Here’s an interview of Coach Micheletto by UMass hockey radio’s Brock Hines from Media Day. Coach Mick talks about general stuff, captains, and goaltending. As I expected, it’ll be an open competition in net:
Speaking of the venerable Brock, it’s come to my attention that there will be a bit of a change for the hockey broadcasts this season. Don’t worry, Brock will be returning for his…wait for it…20th season of bringing UMass hockey to the masses. But he’ll be doing so as a play by play announcer, moving over from the comfortable color chair. Adam Frenier, who did well last year broadcasting from ice level, will be the new color commentator. With that news I want to thank John Hennessy for his dedication to UMass hockey over the last few years. Hennessy arrived in Amherst with a wealth of hockey knowledge and I always enjoyed the times I got to interact with him. I admired the fact that he’d drive all the way from his home in New Jersey to Amherst every weekend. And for trips to basically anywhere else in Hockey East, that was only the beginning of a very long journey as the voice of Minuteman hockey. Thanks for everything John and I wish you well in the future!
Matt Vautour has his coverage of yesterday’s Hockey East media day, focusing on the coming changes to the league.
Alabama-Huntsville surprisingly replaced their head coach just weeks before the season. Though it looks like got a qualified replacement in the form of former Providence Friar Kurt Kleinendorst, it does not signal good things for a program that is still without a conference and struggling to make things work. I really hope a conference invite is coming soon though. The program has done remarkable things in a completely foreign environment and, in my opinion, have proven their legitimacy within college hockey.
Boston College lost Frank Vatrano, one of their top freshmen for this coming season, for what’s being reported as NCAA clearinghouse issues, meaning he had not completed the minimum requirements to be considered a college student. According to Mike McMahon Vatrano has rejoined the Junior Bruins of the EJHL. Since he gave up an opportunity in the QMJHL to played with the Junior Bruins, I guess this means he’ll look to hook up with another college program next year.