University of Maine second-year men’s hockey coach Red Gendron will get the opportunity to assess his team, including his eight freshmen, when his Black Bears entertain perennial Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship contender New Brunswick at 4 p.m. Sunday at Alfond Arena.
UNB has won four national championships over the past eight seasons and was the runner-up once during that span. The Varsity Reds will visit Boston College on Saturday night.
Maine travels to Alaska the following weekend to open its season against Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks on successive nights.
“First of all, I want to see where we’re at in terms of execution and our systems,” said Gendron. “We’ll also be able to evaluate our players thoroughly. Not only will we have the game, we’ll also be able to watch the video of it.”
Gendron said even though he can use every player on his roster, he plans to use just nine forwards and five defensemen in each period and will switch other players into the lineup between periods.
“That will allow us to do a better job evaluating players,” he said. “They will play a lot in those 20-minute segments and we’ll get to see them in a variety of situations. You won’t have players sitting out because of power plays and so on.”
He also noted that it will supply his players with a valuable conditioning session against a quality opponent.
“UNB has won national championships recently. They were so much bigger than we were last year,” said Gendron, whose Black Bears rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat UNB 4-3 in overtime.
“They’re a good team. We’ll know where we’re at after Sunday.”
Gendron has added size to his roster.
“We want to develop our chemistry,” said junior defenseman Ben Hutton, a second-team All-American a year ago who became the first Black Bear defenseman to lead the team in goals with a school-record 15. “You want to make sure you’re jelling together with whoever you’re playing with. And you want your compete level to be there.
Junior center and All-American Devin Shore said it will be a great tune-up.
“We want everyone to get in some hits, backcheck, make some plays and get comfortable in a game situation in front of our fans,” he said.
UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall said he has 16 first- or second-year players on his roster.
“We’ll try to hold our own this weekend,” said MacDougall. “Playing at the Alfond Arena is a terrific experience. The two schools are close. There is great competition between the two but great respect, too.”
MacDougall’s Varsity Reds feature winger/center Philippe Maillet and defenseman Jordan Murray, who were chosen to the Atlantic University Sport second team and rookie teams last season.
It will be the 10th exhibition game between the two teams since the 2002-03 season. Five were decided by one goal and there were two ties. Maine is 6-1-2.