BOSTON — The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team has been selected to finish fifth in the 2012-2013 Hockey East Preseason Coaches Poll released Tuesday at Hockey East Media Day.
The Black Bears received 56 points in the poll overall in the 10-team league.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said he wasn’t surprised that his team was picked fifth by the league’s coaches.
“We lost most of our scoring. It’s going to be a challenge to score goals,” said Whitehead. “So we’ll employ more of a defensive style and try to win low-scoring games. We had a very offensive style the past few years because we had scorers and tried to win games 5-4 or 6-3.
“Hopefully, we’ll develop more scoring as the season goes along,” added Whitehead.
Boston College, the defending national champion, received nine first-place votes and 90 points overall. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
UMass Lowell was selected second with 74 points overall. The River Hawks were followed by Boston University with 73 points and New Hampshire, which received the lone remaining first-place vote, and 63 points overall.
Following Maine was Northeastern and Providence, who tied for sixth place, each receiving 44 points. Merrimack was selected eighth with 38 points. Massachusetts was picked to finish ninth with 35 points, while Vermont rounded out the poll in 10th place with 23 points.
Maine returns 17 letterwinners from last year’s squad that made the NCAA Tournament, including top goal scorer Joey Diamond. Diamond netted 25 goals and added 22 assists for 47 points. He finished fourth in the nation in goals per game and tied for the national lead with 11 power-play goals.
The Black Bears lost players who scored 46.6 percent of their goals and dished out 55 percent of their assists.
Four of their top five scorers have departed.
The Black Bears have lost Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist Spencer Abbott (21 goals, 41 assists) and linemate Brian Flynn (18 and 30) along with point-producing defenseman Will O’Neill (3 and 30), shutdown defenseman Ryan Hegarty (2 and 12), speedy winger-defenseman Matt Mangene (16 and 18) and checking line winger Theo Andersson (2 and 0).
Flynn (69 and 87), Abbott (54 and 92) and O’Neill (19 and 82) cracked the 100-point plateau for their careers.
Maine will return both goalies in Dan Sullivan (22-11-3, 2.59 goals-against average, .909 save percentage) and Martin Ouellette (1-3, 3.42, .871) and the Bears have added freshman netminder Matt Morris.
“For the first time since Ben Bishop left in 2008, we’re confident about our goaltending,” said Whitehead. “Dan has proven himself in this league; Martin is in great shape and Matt has looked real good.”
Seniors Mark Nemec and Mike Cornell have 99 and 90 games of experience, respectively, and will anchor a defense corps that includes senior Nick Pryor, junior Brice O’Connor and sophomore Jake Rutt.
Diamond is the top returning scorer followed by seniors Kyle Beattie (6 and 21), Adam Shemansky (11 and 10) and Mark Anthoine (12 and 7).
Dallas Stars second-round draft choice Devin Shore headlines a nine-member freshman class that will be counted upon to help fill the voids left by the departed players.
“I love our freshman class,” said Whitehead. “It’s the best class we’ve had since last year’s senior class.”
Maine finished with a 23-14-3 record last season after losing to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the Northeast Regional.
Maine opens the season when it hosts Quinnipiac on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Alfond Arena in Orono.