The University of Maine men’s hockey team, which has to rebuild its blue-line corps after losing five defenseman who played in at least 33 games last season, has been picked to finish eighth in Hockey East in the league’s preseason coaches poll.
For the second straight year, just the top eight teams in the 11-team league will qualify for the playoffs beginning with the quarterfinal round.
That followed five seasons in which all the teams made it, resulting in a first-round best-of-three series involving the bottom six seeds. The top five teams earned first-round byes.
Boston College, which finished seventh a year ago, was a convincing pick to win the league.
The Eagles, who lost to Northeastern 3-2 in the Hockey East championship game, received eight of the 11 first-place votes and 97 points.
They were followed by defending regular season champ and NCAA Tournament runner-up UMass, which received two first-place votes and 85 points. Providence (78 points) rounded out the top three.
Northeastern, with the other first-place vote and 73 points, was fourth followed by Boston University (72), UMass Lowell (53), New Hampshire (40), UMaine (39), UConn (38), Vermont (19) and Merrimack College (11).
UMaine, which hasn’t reached the Hockey East semifinals in seven years, wound up 15-17-4 a year ago, 11-9-4 in Hockey East. UMaine finished sixth and dropped a pair of 2-1 games to Northeastern in the quarterfinals, one in overtime.
UMaine returns five of its top eight scorers led by leading scorer Mitch Fossier (8 goals, 28 assists) along with Tim Doherty (9 & 8) and Eduards Tralmaks (8 & 9), who tied for fourth.
They will also return All-Hockey East third-team goalie Jeremy Swayman (14-17-4, 2.77 goals-against average, .919).
University of Wisconsin transfer J.D. Greenway, a third-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a former United States National Team Develop Program Under-18 and Under-17 player, is expected to give the defense corps an instant boost.
He is one of 11 newcomers.
Greenway is the brother of former Boston University forward and current Minnesota Wild left winger Jordan Greenway.
UMaine will open the season at Providence next Saturday at 4 p.m. before returning home for an exhibition game the next day against defending Canadian national champion the University of New Brunswick, also at 4 p.m.