ORONO – Maria Lewis is 2-0 as a head coach.
But the University of Maine women’s ice hockey coach isn’t celebrating her team’s 7-0 and 11-0 wins over Sacred Heart (Conn.) last weekend.
In fact, she said she was disappointed with the performance turned in by her Black Bears in the first game.
“But we had a much better effort in the second game,” said Lewis.
Maine is now preparing for Mercyhurst (Pa.) College, which was the top seed in the Frozen Four a year ago only to get upset by fourth seed Cornell 3-2 in the semifinals.
Mercyhurst, ranked third in the country in the USCHO.com preseason poll, will invade Orono on Oct. 9-10.
Lewis said it will take time and a couple of strong recruiting classes to turn the program around and she is determined to get it done.
Over the previous four seasons, Maine went 25-89-15 overall, 13-59-12 in Hockey East.
“It’s a building year. Our team speed needs to get better so we’ll have to compensate by playing smart, playing disciplined and playing well positionally,” said Lewis, who is assisted by Richard Reichenbach and Kevin Sommer. “I love the character of the team. It’s a great group of kids. They have a desire to learn.”
Lewis, a former assistant at Maine, Mercyhurst and North Dakota, will have quality and depth in goal where sophomore Brittany Ott and junior Candice Currier will handle most of the work with sophomore Kylie Smith pushing them for playing time.
Ott was 4-12-3 a year ago with a 2.60 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. She was chosen to the Women’s Hockey East All-Rookie team.
Currier was 2-8-2 with a 2.87 GAA and a .905 save percentage.
The defense has a mixture of veterans and newcomers but there isn’t much depth.
Workhorses Lexie Hoffmeyer and Elyce Thomas graduated and Jessica Bond has decided to pursue her track career. She is the defending America East outdoor champion in the javelin.
Madelene Eriksson, limited to just two games due to illness two years ago, played in 22 games last season and is the only senior on the blue line.
Juniors Ashley Norum (2 goals, 2 assists) and Melissa Gagnon (1 & 3) are the top returning point-getters among the defense corps.
Sophomore Chloe Tinkler (0 & 2) played in 31 games last season and freshmen Kayla Kaluzny and Kelly McDonald will also see playing time.
Lewis said the 5-foot-10 Kaluzny has made a smooth transition from forward to defense and has been impressive.
The Black Bears graduated their top three scorers in Jenna Ouellette (11 & 16), Taryn Peacock (7 & 15) and Hoffmeyer (4 & 15) and goal scoring has been a problem during the past four years as the Bears averaged just two goals per game during that span.
Lewis had five veterans on her top two lines over the weekend and will rely on them for scoring.
Senior Jennie Gallo has 19 goals over the past two seasons. She plays on the left wing with center Dominique Goutsis and right wing Myriam Croussette, both juniors. Croussette had 6 & 5 a year ago and Goutsis had 3 & 2. That line combined for six goals and nine assists against Sacred Heart.
Sophomore Brittany Dougherty had two goals and five assists over the weekend and will center a line between junior right wing Dawn Sullivan and University of Southern Maine transfer Danielle Ward, a junior left wing from Lansing, Mich.
“That line looked real good,” said Lewis. “Danielle has been a real nice surprise.”
Ward had 2 & 3 vs. Sacred Heart and Sullivan had four assists.
Dougherty had 3 & 6 last year and Sullivan had 3 & 4. Ward led USM with 12 & 22.
Seeing duty on the third and fourth lines were seniors Jordan Colliton (3 & 3 last year), Kaitlin Zeek (1 & 1) and Cumberland’s Danielle Cyr (no points); sophomore Brianne Kilgour (2 & 1 in just 4 games last season due to injury) and freshmen Missy Denk, Kristi King, Jenny Kistner and Kerry Mayhew. Kilgour and Kistner each had a goal and two assists over the weekend. King and Mayhew also notched their first collegiate goals.
Lewis said qualifying for the Hockey East playoffs is the primary goal this season.
Her Black Bears will employ an up-tempo style of play.
“We are going to establish what type of team we want to be and what we’re going to be like in the future,” she said.