It has been a season of milestones for the University of Maine women’s hockey team.
And one of the players who has been instrumental in the turnaround is senior left wing Jennie Gallo, who is the team’s No. 2 scorer with 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points. Her 11 goals tie her with Brittany Dougherty for the team lead, and Gallo’s six power-play goals are tops on the team.
After three seasons in which the Black Bears went 15-70-13, the Bears’ 9-8-4 record is supplying Gallo with the most enjoyable season among her four at Maine.
“For sure, this is the best year. Oh my gosh, I’m having a blast,” said Gallo. “I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s an honor to be out there every single day. We all look forward to stepping on the ice together.”
Gallo, whose previous single-season high for goals was 12 her sophomore year, scored the game-winner in Sunday’s 3-2 win over Providence College in which the Bears snapped a streak of 23 games without a win against the Friars (0-17-6).
Earlier this season, Maine beat New Hampshire 4-1 to end a 28-game winless skein at the hands of the Wildcats (0-25-3).
Gallo assisted on the third goal in that win.
She said the wins over New Hampshire and Providence represent a “great accomplishment.”
“And we’re going to keep working toward our goal of making the Hockey East playoffs,” said Gallo. “We’re all pretty excited. We’ve got a new coach (Maria Lewis) and, hopefully, everything will work out. We’ve just got to believe in ourselves.”
She said there have been a lot of changes implemented by Lewis, whom she considers a “great coach” and said they spend a lot of time working on skill development.
“We’re coming together as a team. We’ve made great strides,” said Gallo, who added that they have benefited from the contributions of several newcomers.
She credited her success to her teammates.
“They’re the ones who have set me up. I’m very thankful for that,” she said.
Maine hosts Boston College on Saturday night at 7.
O’Neill hasn’t missed a beat
Junior defenseman Will O’Neill hasn’t missed a stride since returning to the Black Bear lineup after sitting out eight games with a knee injury.
O’Neill had three assists in the two games in the Florida College Classic and was named to the all-tournament team.
He also had an assist in the 5-1 win over the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad in Portland on Sunday.
“(The knee) feels great,” said O’Neill. “On my first shift back, I was thinking about it. But once I made that first pass and took that first hit, I stopped worrying about it and just worried about the game and nothing else.”
He feels he has played “pretty well.”
“I’ve been moving the puck well and skating well,” said O’Neill. “I’ve played better with each game and want to keep building on that.”
O’Neill pointed out that he has never missed this many games in the middle of a season at any time during his entire career.
“It’s so much fun to be back. I really missed it,” he said. “When you don’t play, you realize how much fun it is. It’s great being around the guys and being able to compete and play in front of these crowds.”
“Will has made a huge difference,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “He has looked great. He contributed right away to the offense and he gave us another veteran who can help us on the power play and the penalty kill and in the last minute of a period. He helped our power play right away and is a defenseman who can handle (opponents’) rushes. He’s also been physical. He has done a great job.”
Two of his three assists in the Florida College Classic came on the power play as did the assist on Sunday in Portland.
Whitehead is hoping to get assistant captain and defenseman Jeff Dimmen back from an ankle injury in time for Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Merrimack.
However, defenseman Nick Pryor and left wing Adam Shemansky will be out with concussions, and center Kelen Corkum will be sidelined by a “lower body injury,” according to Whitehead.