Maria Lewis began her hockey coaching career at the University of Maine during the 1999-2000 season when she was a volunteer assistant for the women’s ice hockey team.
Now she is returning to Maine to begin her career as a head coach.
Lewis was named to replace Dan Lichterman, who resigned after three seasons to spend more time with his family and enable his wife to pursue her career as a regional general manager for the Canlan Ice Sports Corp.
Lichterman went 15-70-13 record in his three seasons.
Maine has had losing records in six of the last seven years.
Lewis, a native of Long Island, said she intends to start turning the program around by changing the “culture.”
“We’ll want all the players to be on the same page working to achieve the same goal,” said the 34-year-old Lewis. “We want to make sure we bring the right type of kids here. They’ve got to want to be a part of creating something and building something. I’m not going to bring in a [top-notch] player if she won’t buy into what we’re trying to do as a team.”
Lewis spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of North Dakota. She was also an advisor who monitored the players’ academic progress and mentored their off-ice development.
“She worked hard and was very passionate. She did a solid job for us,” said North Dakota head coach Brian Idalski.
“Obviously, our women’s hockey program is one we think can continue to have a tremendous amount of growth,” said Maine athletic director Blake James. “It’s an exciting time to have Maria coming in and I look forward to watching our program under her leadership.
“She will be an aggressive, tireless recruiter and I’m confident she can go out and find some young women who want to come in and be a part of the University of Maine,” he added.
James said Lewis was chosen from among an applicant pool of 37 and said they haven’t worked out terms of her contract. However, he speculated that it will be a three-year deal worth $45,000 a year.
Lewis was also an assistant/ associate head coach at Mercyhurst College (Pa.) where she recruited Canadian Olympic Team star Meghan Agosta, an All-American who was one of three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award in back-to-back seasons.
The Patty Kazmaier Award is given to the nation’s top women’s college hockey player.
Lewis feels the university offers several attractive things to offer a player, including a quality education, a strong men’s hockey tradition, academic support and good strength and conditioning facilities.
“And [Hockey East] is getting very good, very fast,” said Lewis who feels a chance to play in Hockey East will be a valuable recruiting tool, also.
She said building the program into a winner “won’t happen overnight.”
“It’ll be a process,” said Lewis, who starts on Monday and will begin by evaluating her returnees. “We will bring in the type of players we need. If we need speed, we’ll bring in speed. I like to have players who have hockey sense.
“Eventually, I’d like to have a puck possession team,” added Lewis. “I don’t want to have a trapping team. That’s boring.”
She was attracted to the job because she wanted to become a head coach and she enjoyed the year she spent at Maine, where she worked at a group home for teenagers in Bangor to pay her bills while serving as a volunteer assistant.
“Obviously, I like the area,” said Lewis. “The people are nice and I grew up on the East Coast. And the men’s program has such a strong tradition. When you thought about college hockey, Maine was one of the names that popped into your head.
“I know there’s a lot of work ahead. But I’ve never shied away from working hard,” said Lewis. “I know there are going to be limitations and challenges but I’ve been there before and understand how to make it work.”