The final tuneups before the season opener for the youthful University of Maine men’s hockey team will take place this weekend when the Black Bears visit Fredericton, New Brunswick, for a pair of exhibition games against the University of New Brunswick.
The Varsity Reds beat the Bears 2-1 in Orono last year en route to a berth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship game where they lost to Alberta 3-2.
UNB is coming off back-to-back road losses to Massachusetts (6-0) and Boston University (4-1) while Maine had its Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage.
“They’re a real good team with a lot of veteran players. They’re going to be very hungry after their road trip,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “We’ve established a great rivalry with them and they’re always great games. This is exactly what we want: a tough challenge.”
“This is a great opportunity to take a look at our young team and evaluate where each player is and where we are as a team against very good competition,” added Whitehead.
As for specifics, Whitehead is looking for his team to “manage the puck better” and reduce the number of turnovers they had Saturday.
UNB will generate transition opportunities off turnovers.
“Our guys are going to have to improve their awareness of dangerous situations and execute defensively,” Whitehead said.
On the offensive side of the puck, he wants his Bears to find ways to “generate more quality scoring chances.”
For the time being, he will keep at least one veteran on each line and defensive tandem.
“But I’m not ruling out having an all-freshman line or defense tandem [at some time],” said Whitehead.
Senior Chris Hahn will be the left wing on a line with freshmen Kyle Solomon and Brian Flynn.
Sophomore Tanner House will be flanked by freshmen LW Spencer Abbott and RW Gustav Nyquist, redshirt freshman Nick Payson will patrol the left wing on a line with sophomores Glenn Belmore and Lem Randall, sophomore Robby Dee will be the left wing with junior C David deKastrozza and senior RW Jeff Marshall and sophomore Keif Orsini will center a line between freshman Theo Andersson and junior Brett Carriere.
On defense, senior Simon Danis-Pepin will be paired with freshman Ryan Hegarty, freshman Will O’Neill and senior Matt Duffy will be together, sophomores Mike Banwell and Jeff Dimmen will be a tandem and sophomore Josh Van Dyk will be with freshman Mark Nemec.
Junior Dave Wilson and freshman Scott Darling will each play a game in goal.
Whitehead said he likes the idea of playing in Fredericton because “it will give our fans in northern Maine an opportunity to see our team against a real good hockey team in UNB.”