ORONO, Maine — Assistant coaches Richard Reichenbach and Sara Simard will guide the University of Maine women’s hockey team during its two exhibition games Saturday and Sunday against the defending Canadian Women’s Hockey League champion Boston Blades.
They will replace suspended head coach Maria Lewis.
Lewis was placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 16 due to potential personnel and NCAA compliance issues and an investigation has been launched by the institution.
The issues being examined include whether NCAA bylaws restricting the number of hours student-athletes spend in activities directed or supervised by the coaching staff were violated.
“The two assistant coaches will be leading the team until the investigation concludes,” Margaret Nagle, the school’s senior director of public relations and operations in the division of marketing and communications, said Wednesday morning.
“The investigation is ongoing. We are conducting a thorough and fair investigation and intend to conclude it as expeditiously as possible,” said Nagle.
Reichenbach is in his fourth season as the recruiting coordinator and assistant coach at Maine. In addition to his recruiting responsibilities, his specialty is working with the defense.
He is a Baldwinsville, N.Y., native who captained the hockey team at NCAA Division III Hamilton College in New York before earning a master’s degree from Cortland State in New York. He played one season of professional hockey for the Richmond Renegades of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
He had served as an assistant coach at Cortland State before coming to Maine. There, he was responsible for recruiting, organizing practices and team travel, and video breakdown and review.
Simard is in her second season at Maine after spending three seasons as an assistant at Dartmouth College.
It is her second stint at Maine. She was an assistant and the the recruiting coordinator at Maine from 2007-2009.
Prior to her first stint at Maine, she was a volunteer assistant at Mercyhurst College (Pa.) and coached at the North American Hockey Academy in Stowe, Vt., helping mentor and develop young players to get them ready for the college ranks.
Simard played two years of hockey at Hebron Academy before playing four years at St. Lawrence University and helping lead the Saints to two Frozen Fours.
She graduated from St. Lawrence in 2004 and spent one year playing professional hockey in Switzerland, earning a tryout with the Swiss national team.
Lewis has led the Black Bears to a 34-52-15 record in her three previous seasons. She received a three-year contract extension on July 1, 2012. She makes $45,000 per year.
Lewis led the Black Bears to a record-setting campaign in 2011-2012. They went 11-8-2 in Hockey East, posting the most league wins in school history. They won 17 games overall (17-11-6) which tied a school mark.
But the Black Bears struggled mightily last season, going 5-24-4 overall and 2-16-3 in Hockey East.
Maine was recently chosen to finish seventh in the eight-team league in the annual Hockey East coaches poll.
NCAA semifinalist Boston College was chosen as the favorite with 56 points and 7 first-place votes. NCAA finalist Boston University was next with 48 points and the other first-place vote followed by Northeastern (41), Providence (38), New Hampshire (34), Vermont (29), Maine (19) and Connecticut (15).
Maine returns all but four players: Leading scorer Brittany Dougherty, defenseman Chloe Tinkler, workhorse goalie Brittany Ott and backup goalie Kylie Smith. Ott had 72 saves in the 2-1 overtime loss to Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
Dougherty concluded her four-year, 128-game career with 100 points (46 goals, 54 assists), Tinkler had 5 and 28 in 132 games; Ott was 32-53-13 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage and Smith was 3-4-3, 3.31 and .860.
Maine has seven incoming freshmen.
Maine will play the Blades at 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday before opening the season October 6 at Boston College. Maine’s home openers are October 18-19 against Quinnipiac.