ORONO — The University of Maine men’s hockey team lost some three of their top five scorers off last year’s team including former Hobey Baker Award finalist Gustav Nyquist, who led the team in scoring in all three of his seasons at Maine.
But the Black Bears didn’t have any problems finding the net against defending Canadian national champion the University of New Brunswick Sunday night at Alfond Arena as the Black Bears posted a 7-3 exhibition victory over the Varsity Reds.
Maine will open the regular season with home games against Hockey East rivals Merrimack College on Friday night at 7 and Northeastern on Sunday afternoon at 1.
On Sunday night, Maine was led by its three highest returning point-getters: Spencer Abbott, Brian Flynn and Joey Diamond.
They are linemates this season with Flynn making the move from left wing to center, Abbott manning the left wing and Diamond on the right wing.
Flynn, a co-captain, and Abbott, an assistant captain, are seniors and Diamond is a junior.
Abbott and Flynn had a goal and three assists apiece and Diamond had a pair of goals.
“Those guys are easy to play with. Spencer and I play a similar type of game and Joey works hard,” said Flynn, who had spent most of his career on a line with Nyquist and Tanner House. Nyquist signed with the Detroit Red Wings, passing up his senior year, while House graduated.
Junior left wing Adam Shemansky had a goal and two assists.
Freshman center John Parker had two assists and sophomore defenseman Brice O’Connor and freshman left wing Pietro Antonelli had the other goals.
Luke Lynes and Thomas Nesbitt had first-period goals and Luke Gallant had a third-period goal for the 4-2 Varsity Reds, who lost to New Hampshire 3-0 on Saturday night.
Flynn and Shemansky’s goals came on five-on-three power plays while Diamond’s second goal came on a five-on-four power play.
Abbott’s game-opening goal was a shorthander.
Maine went 3-for-10 on the power play while UNB went 0-for-6.
Dan Sullivan made 12 saves on 14 shots before Martin Ouellette came on midway through the second period and finished with 16 saves on 17 shots.
“I saw a lot of good things out there,” said Abbott. “I’m sure there were some bad things that we’ll watch on video. But the freshmen really stepped up and played well and the chemistry on the lines was good. The defensemen and goalies were good, too.”
Abbott also said UNB is more physical than most Hockey East teams “so the freshmen got a good feel for (physical play).”
“We got beat to pucks,” said UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall, who has led UNB to three Canadian national championships in five years. “Maine won a lot of races to the puck. I was impressed with their top end players and their high-end power play.”
“They have a lot of talented players. Their special teams did the job,” said UNB veteran defenseman Gallant.
“They obviously have a very good power play,” said UNB right winger Thomas Nesbitt.
Abbott opened the scoring with a tap-in off a Flynn pass during a perfectly-executed two-on-one while the Bears were shorthanded.
“We’ve been told that if we get the chance to go (and create a scoring chance while shorthanded), to take it,” said Abbott.
Lynes tied it when Ben Shutron’s floater from the right circle deflected off him past the screened Dan Sullivan.
Maine took the lead with a five-on-three goal as Shemansky’s cross-crease pass was roofed by Flynn.
“(Shemansky) has great vision and made a great pass. Spencer gave him (a similar pass) later for his goal,” said Flynn
Diamond made it 3-1 as he drove the net, took a nifty pass from Abbott, and jammed home his own rebound.
Nesbitt closed out the first-period scoring with a well-placed wrister from the low slot on a three-on-two while the teams were each a man short.
Maine broke the game open in the second period with four goals.
O’Connor scored with a snap shot from the right point; Shemansky finished off an Abbott feed during a five-on-three; Antonelli chipped a diagonal pass from Billy Norman into the short-side corner from point-blank range at the far post and Diamond capped the scoring when his pass to Flynn was blocked but he recaptured the loose puck and shoveled it home from the low slot.
Ouellete came on with Maine leading 5-2 and made three sharp saves in his first minute while the Varsity Reds were on the power play.
“After I faced those first few shots, I felt comfortable,” said Ouellette. “Our team defense was real good. I didn’t have to face any rebound shots.
‘‘Everyone played well. It was great to see the freshmen play well,” added Ouellette.
Maine had seven freshmen in the lineup, five forwards and two defensemen.
Flynn said the play of the goalies was encouraging.
“Both of them played great. They came up with some pretty big stops,” said Flynn.
Dan LaCosta finished with 20 saves for UNB, which outshot Maine 31-28.