ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team’s freshman class has produced the highest percentage of its team’s points in Hockey East.
Maine’s eight freshmen have combined for 78 points (27 goals, 51 assists) among the team’s 191, or 40.8 percent.
Providence is next with 36.3 percent (93 of 256) and Northeastern is third at 33.6 percent (77 of 229).
The rest are, in order: Boston University (28.3 percent), UMass Lowell (25.3), Merrimack (18.7), Vermont (17.1), Boston College (16.1), New Hampshire (8) and Massachusetts (6.9).
Maine’s freshmen are third in points behind Providence (93) and Boston University (82).
“It hasn’t surprised any of us,” said Maine senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell. “They’ve been great all year. They came in a month early and got their feet wet with our strength and conditioning coach (Terry O’Neill) and adjusted to each other.
“What is even more important is, most of their points have come in the second half. Nobody [in any class] was consistent in the first half and for them to come on like they have is pretty impressive.”
“They’re really talented. They have really stepped up their games, especially in the second half,” said junior goalie Martin Ouellette. “They didn’t have any experience when they came in here and they have kept improving [while gaining experience].”
Center Devin Shore leads the first-year players with 23 points (4 & 19) followed by defenseman Ben Hutton (4 & 11), center Steven Swavely (6 & 8), left wing Ryan Lomberg (7 & 6), left wing Will Merchant (3 & 4), defenseman/right wing Bill Norman (2 & 2) and defensemen Kyle Williams (1 & 0) and Conor Riley (0 & 1).
In addition, goalie Matt Morris has played in six games and has a 2.83 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage to go with a 2-1 record.
Shore said the freshman statistics are “flattering.”
“We’re just trying to do what we can to contribute to the team,” said Shore. “The seniors have given us great guidance. They’re great people. It’s an honor to be playing beside them.”
“We feel we have a great class and we can do some special things together,” said Lomberg.
Shore and Lomberg said they are looking forward to the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal playoff series with UMass Lowell that begins Thursday night.
“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get out there,” said Lomberg, who is the youngest player in Hockey East. He turned 18 on Dec. 12.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Shore, who is also 18.
Ouellette ready for debut
Ouellette will be making his first collegiate playoff start on Thursday night.
“I don’t think I’ll be too nervous. I’m more excited than anything else,” said Ouellette. “I’m usually pretty calm and focused.”
He said UMass Lowell has a “lot of speedy forwards. They’re pretty good on the rush. They’re a hardworking team, too. They play a similar system to us. I’m just going to try to keep things simple. I want to keep doing the things I’ve been doing well since the start of the season. I want to improve every weekend.”
He expects the River Hawks to attack the net.
“If a goalie is playing well, coaches always tell their forwards to crash the net and get a lot of traffic in front. I’ll have to do a good job in front of my net,” said Ouellette, referring to coming out and cutting the angle so even if he doesn’t see a shot, he’s in position to make the save.
His teammates have confidence in him despite the fact it will be his first playoff experience.
“I’m not concerned about him,” said Cornell.
“He’s the least of my worries,” agreed Shore.
Ouellette will square off against freshman sensation Connor Hellebuyck, who has the nation’s best winning percentage (.875, 14-2) and second-best goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.945).
“It’ll be fun,” said Ouellette. “There’s a lot of great goalies in this league. Every team has a pretty good goalie. It’ll be a good matchup.”