ORONO, Maine —- Nine newcomers made their University of Maine men’s hockey debuts in an exhibition game against Acadia University of Wolfville, Nova Scotia Sunday afternoon and most of them turned in impressive performances in the Black Bears’ 3-1 triumph.
Left wing Tim Doherty, who sat out last season after transferring from Brown University in Rhode Island, had a goal and an assist; freshman defenseman Alexis Binner scored a power- play goal off assists from fellow freshmen Brady Keeper and Adrian Holesinksky and freshman goalie Jeremy Swayman stopped 14 of 15 shots including a breakaway.
“Several of them played really well. In fact, I don’t think any of them played poorly,” said fifth-year UMaine head coach Red Gendron. “They brought different elements to the game. It was a good debut for our freshmen.”
“We have a lot of good incoming freshmen and transfers, too. It’s going to be exciting,” said junior defenseman Mark Hamilton, one of the Black Bear captains.
Left winger Doherty had an assist on junior defenseman Rob Michel’s shorthanded goal, which proved to be the game-winner, and he sewed up the win by scoring a wraparound goal with just 2:01 remaining.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Doherty, who practiced with the team last season but couldn’t play due to NCAA transfer rules. “Going out there in front of the crowd with my teammates was unbelievable. And I was lucky enough to score a goal.”
He said he didn’t feel rusty despite the layoff.
“I got to practice all of last year and we had a really tough preseason that got us all in the right shape,” said Doherty.
Swayman came on halfway through the game after junior Rob McGovern had a quiet period and a half, facing only three shots and stopping all three.
Just 4:14 after entering the game, Swayman stopped Kyle Farrell’s breakaway backhander by getting his stick down to smother it. Farrell, who scored 77 goals in his last two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was trying to slide the puck between Swayman’s pads.
“That’s a good way to start the game. It gets your head right into it,” grinned Swayman, a fourth- round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. “He didn’t have much room and I thought I shut down any potential hole there was.”
The Black Bears outshot the Axemen 40-18 and carried the play with their superior speed.
Acadia had played the night before, losing to UMass Lowell 4-2, and was without four key players which left them with just 16 skaters.
Last year’s leading scorer, Boston Leier, and second-team All-Canadian defenseman Geoff Schemitsch were among the injured. Acadia finished third in Canada in 2016-17.
“I was very impressed with Maine,” said Acadia coach Darren Burns. “They pushed hard and didn’t quit. They’re a tough team to play against. They work hard.
“Our guys didn’t quit. They kept pushing and got better as the game went along,” said Burns.
“Maine really got on us on the forecheck,” said Acadia defenseman Liam Maaskant. “We didn’t handle it as well as we should have. They’ve got a good team.”
“We’ve got a lot of speed on our team and we have some big bodies who hit people down low (in the offensive zone),” said Hamilton. “We wanted to push the pace and we did for the majority of the game.”
Robert Steeves was outstanding in goal for Acadia, finishing with 37 stops, including 13 in the first period when UMaine outshot his Axemen 13-1.
Binner opened the scoring 2:13 into the second period when Keeper did an exceptional job keeping the puck in at the blue line before putting a diagonal backhanded pass right onto his stick. Binner took a few strides and snapped a 25-foot wrister past Steeves’ glove.
“That was an unbelievable play by Keeper at the blue line,” said Gendron.
Michel expanded the lead when Doherty and Chase Pearson created a turnover and the puck squirted out front. Michel faked a shot and calmly skated around Steeves before depositing the puck into the open net.
Stephen Harper scored on the power play for Acadia with 5:37 left in regulation by one-timing Farrell’s cross-ice pass past Swayman but Doherty converted his wraparound by sweeping the puck in off the far post off a Cedric Lacroix feed.
UMaine officially opens its season by hosting Hockey East rival, the University of Connecticut on Friday night at 7:30 and Saturday at 4.