ORONO, Maine — Hockey East coaches don’t think the University of Maine men’s hockey team will be any better than last season, according to their preseason poll that picked the Black Bears eighth in the league’s media day Tuesday in Boston.
Maine went 11-19-8 a year ago, 7-12-8 in Hockey East, and finished eighth in the conference. The Black Bears were ousted in the league quarterfinals by UMass Lowell 4-2 and 2-1 in overtime.
UMass Lowell, an NCAA Tournament semifinalist a year ago, and Boston College were selected atop the coaches poll with 104 points but UMass Lowell received seven first-place votes to Boston College’s four.
New Hampshire and Hockey East newcomer Notre Dame were tied for third with 84 points followed by Providence (79), Boston University (67), Merrimack (54), Maine (45), Vermont (34), Massachusetts (32) and Northeastern (28).
“Right now, I’m thinking more about how we’re going to play against Dalhousie [Nova Scotia] than anything else,” said Gendron referring to his team’s exhibition opener a week from Sunday, at 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at Alfond Arena.
He said he wasn’t surprised that UMass Lowell and Boston College were picked as co-favorites.
“Lowell has most everybody back and BC is always good,” said Gendron.
He added that he doesn’t analyze opponents until they are up next on his schedule.
“To be honest with you, I think about what’s happening with our team. I don’t spend a minute studying an opponent until it’s time to play them,” said Gendron. “It’s only at that point that it matters to me.”
Maine will return four of its top five scorers, all of whom were freshmen a year ago; six of its top eight and 10 of its 13 leading point-getters along with two senior goalies who have each had a season as the workhorse: Dan Sullivan in 2011-12 and Martin Ouellette last season.
Sophomore Matt Morris has been lost for the season with a leg injury.
Maine did end the season 6-3-4 in its last 13 league regular season games and had road wins at Boston College and New Hampshire, where it had gone 0-16-1 collectively entering the season.
Maine missed the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six years after a string of nine consecutive appearances and Tim Whitehead was fired as coach after 12 seasons with one year left on his contract.
He was replaced by Gendron, who was an assistant coach for NCAA champion Yale last season and who is a former Maine assistant.
Maine averaged 2.03 goals per game, 57th among 59 teams in Division I, and allowed 2.74 (29th). The Bears’ power play was 51st (13.7 percent efficiency), their penalty-killing was 39th best (81.0 percent) and they were the 11th most penalized team (14.5 per game).
But Joey Diamond, who led the team in penalty minutes (147), has graduated. He also led the team with 14 goals.
The team graduated veteran defenseman Mike Cornell and Mark Nemec.
The league will have a revamped schedule this season as the inclusion of Notre Dame prompted the move to having teams play each other twice instead of three times. So there will be 20 league games instead of 27.
Teams are allowed to play 34 games overall under NCAA guidelines so if the league had continued under the previous format, it would mean 30 league games and just four nonconference games.
The University of Connecticut will become the league’s 12th team next season so the number of league games will rise to 22.