The University of Maine women’s ice hockey team had some significant accomplishments last season under first-year head coach Maria Lewis.
By posting 3-2 wins over New Hampshire and Providence, the Black Bears ended winless streaks of 28 (0-25-3) and 23 games (0-17-6) against those two teams, respectively.
They also made the Hockey East playoffs for the first time since the 2005-2006 season and their 12 overall wins and six Hockey East victories were one more than they had attained in their previous two years, combined.
The Black Bears return 11 of their top 12 scorers and both goalies but the league’s coaches obviously weren’t impressed. They picked the Bears to finish dead last in the preseason poll.
“It will definitely provide extra motivation for us,” said senior winger Dominique Goutsis. “(The Hockey East coaches) don’t believe in us but we believe in ourselves. We’re really excited about the season.”
“I don’t mind it. It gives us more to fight for,” agreed senior winger Danielle Ward.
Lewis, Goutsis and Ward feel this year’s team is better than last year’s.
“We’re definitely more skilled than we were last year,” said Lewis. “We’re a fast team and we have a few more kids who can put the puck in the net. And our goaltending keeps getting stronger.”
That’s because standout Brittany Ott returns for her junior season after compiling a 2.49 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage to go with a 10-15-4 record last year. She has a career GAA of 2.53 and a save percentage of .920.
“She’s phenomenal and she’s in great shape. She’s much further along than she was at the start of last year,” said Lewis.
Senior Candice Currier (2.26, .880 in five games) and junior Kyle Smith (20 minutes played) supply reliable backup and freshman Megan Treacy will be a redshirt.
“We’re a lot stronger and we’ve got a lot more depth,” said Ward.
“Our freshmen are going to be great additions,” said Goutsis.
The Bears return four defensemen who played in every game last season in junior Chloe Tinkler (2 goals, 11 assists), senior assistant captain Ashley Norum (1 & 11), senior Melissa Gagnon (0 & 7) and sophomore Kelly McDonald (0 & 3). Freshmen Megan Menotti and Brittany Huneke could be instant contributors and speedy fellow freshman Jessica Hall will also get some ice time as she adapts to the college game, according to Lewis.
Senior Myriam Crousette and junior Brittany Dougherty led the team in scoring a year ago with 14 & 12 apiece and they will headline the list of returning forwards along with Ward (11 & 13), senior captain Dawn Sullivan (8 & 9), Goutsis (4 & 8), sophomores Kayla Kaluzny (3 & 8) and Missy Denk (2 & 5) and junior Brianne Kilgour (2 & 4).
The freshmen forwards who will be vying for ice time will be Tori Pasquariello, Jennifer More, Nikola Tomigova and Waterville’s Katy Massey. Tomigova has been slowed by a knee injury.
Maine, 12-17-5 overall last year and 6-12-3 in Hockey East, will open at home this weekend against Sacred Heart (Conn.) on Friday night at 7 and Saturday at 3.