ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team had a dress rehearsal, playing against the University of New Brunswick at the Alfond Arena on Sunday in advance of next weekend’s opener in Alaska.
The biggest question mark is the goaltending, since junior Matt Morris sat out last season after having hip surgery in November and Sean Romeo and Nik Nugnes are freshmen.
But Morris and Romeo were impressive in the 8-3 exhibition victory. Morris finished with 15 saves on 16 shots in 34 minutes, 29 seconds. Romeo kicked out 10 of 12 shots but was much more severely tested during his stint in the second period.
Nugnes did not play, so Bangor’s Chris Howat played the final 5:31 and wasn’t required to make a save.
“I thought our goalies were terrific, absolutely terrific,” Maine coach Red Gendron said. “They both played equally well.
“We stormed early, but they had a lot of great opportunities later in the period and Matt Morris came up big,” Gendron said. “In the second period, we made a lot of mistakes on line changes and we turned the puck over so they had a lot of point-blank chances. But Sean was terrific. They could have had five or six goals.”
Morris finished with six Grade-A saves while Romeo had eight, including six below the faceoff dots.
Romeo stopped a pair of breakaways and four other point-blank opportunities as the Varsity Reds generated a ton of odd-man rushes.
“Their goalies played well,” UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall said. “We had a lot of good chances.”
Both goalies were satisfied with their performances.
“It felt good to get the rust off,” Morris, who played in just six games as a freshman, said.
“I thought I played all right,” Romeo said. “I thought I was going to the puck instead of letting the play come to me at times. The guys helped me out a lot in the [defensive] zone. I was pretty happy.”
In addition to Romeo, his freshman mates had productive evenings.
Forwards Jack Musil, Nolan Vesey and Cedric Lacroix each had a goal and an assist and Liam Pecoraro had an assist. Jack Hamilton and Malcolm Hayes were solid on the blue line.
Junior center and captain Devin Shore was impressed with the play of the freshmen.
“I remember my first game my freshman year, I had a lot of jitters. I couldn’t feel my legs,” Shore said. “They played very well. We’re going to need them this year.”
Lacroix, Vesey and Romeo said they were energized by the enthusiastic crowd of 4,290.
“It was great to feed off the crowd. I think we felt comfortable out there. We had some good practices, and we adjusted to the systems pretty well,” Lacroix said. “But we gave up four or five two-on-ones in the second period, and that wasn’t acceptable.”
Maine wasted little time exploiting their visitors, who played Boston College on Saturday night and lost 6-4.
Maine scored three times in the first 7:07, as Shore scored from the top of the crease off a Steven Swavely feed from behind the net. Brown jammed home a Lacroix rebound after Lacroix busted down the slot and got off a short backhander and Swavely one-timed a pinpoint cross-ice pass from Vesey.
Gendron played nine forwards and five defensemen in each of the first two periods in order to evaluate his talent and get his players some conditioning work.
All-Americans Shore and defenseman Ben Hutton did not play in the second period and the Varsity Reds controlled the period, receiving goals from Philippe Maillet and Cameron Brace to pull within 3-2.
But third-period goals by Vesey, Conor Riley and Lacroix in a span of 1:42 salted the game away.
Brace scored a second goal before Musil and Dan Renouf completed the scoring.
“Let’s tell the truth: They played last night in Boston and then bussed up here. We got to sleep in our own beds. That was a big advantage for us,” Gendron said.
Maine outshot UNB 30-28, and Chris Carrozzi finished with 22 saves for the Varsity Reds.
“Red has done a tremendous job building the atmosphere back in this building like it used to be,” MacDougall observed.