It was a puzzling end to the season for the University of Maine men’s hockey team. Archrival New Hampshire thumped the Black Bears 7-2 in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs.
UMaine seemed to be in a good place entering the game.
It was its first home game of the season at Alfond Arena in Orono due to COVID-19 restrictions, veteran left winger Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup returned to the lineup after missing five games and the Black Bears were coming off a come-from-behind 3-3 tie and shootout win at No. 7 Massachusetts.
In their defense, the 3-11-2 Black Bears played all of their regular-season games on the road, the only New England team to do so, and six of their 10 losses were by two goals or less. Along the way, they beat No. 17 Providence.
But the numbers don’t lie.
UMaine ranked last (51st) in the country in goals allowed (4.25) and was 32nd in goals per game (2.69). It was the third most penalized team in the country (15.3 minutes per game), extending to four seasons its place among the eight most-penalized teams in Division I.
The Black Bears converted 22.4 percent of their power plays to rank 14th and most of their power play-personnel will be back. They were 29th on the penalty kill at 80.2 percent, which needs to improve.
There also is uncertainty about the future of head coach Red Gendron, whose contract expires on June 30. In eight seasons, UMaine has not advanced past the league quarterfinals.
In terms of personnel, some of UMaine’s best players were sophomores and freshmen and they have a small but promising class of incoming players. All of UMaine’s players are eligible to return next season because of the NCAA’s blanket waiver for student-athletes that provided an extra year of eligibility.
At least two seniors, Eduards Tralmaks and J.D. Greenway, are likely to move on.
Tralmaks, one of the league’s top power forwards, was the Black Bears’ leader with six goals to go with four assists. Defenseman J.D. Greenway (2 goals, 3 assists), was a third-round draft pick of Toronto.
But seniors Emil Westerlund (4 & 5), captain Jack Quinlivan (1 & 1) and defensemen Cam Spicer (0 & 1) and Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi (0 & 3) may return for an extra year.
Junior Adam Dawe (5 & 9) was UMaine’s top point producer and headlines the list of returning forwards along with freshman Lynden Breen (3 & 8), junior Schmidt-Svejstrup (3 & 6) and sophomore Ben Poisson (4 & 4).
Freshmen John Mulera (0 & 4), Brad Morrissey (3 & 0), Tristan Poissant (2 & 1) and Donavan Houle (0 & 2) showed promise and sophomores A.J. Drobot (2 & 2) and Brady Gaudette (2 & 0) could supply supplemental scoring.
Junior Jakub Sirota (1 & 10) has emerged as a top-notch defensemen and the rest of the corps is respectable with junior Simon Butala (0 & 2) and sophomores Adrien Bisson (2 & 4) and Dawson Bruneski (0 & 2) showing improvement. Sophomore Levi Kleiboer (2 & 0) and freshman Kabore Dunn (0 & 2) each played seven games.
Freshman goalie Victor Ostman (3-6-1, 3.77 GAA, .902 save percentage) showed steady progress although he gave up at least three goals in every appearance and didn’t have a good outing against UNH. He should be better and more consistent next year and appears to have potential.
Sophomore Matthew Thiessen (0-5-1, 4.23, .878) backed Ostman up and freshman Connor Androlewicz did not play.
Keenan Suthers, a 6-foot-8 transfer forward from St. Lawrence who sat out due to NCAA eligibility guidelines, NHL top-three round draft prospect defenseman Guillaume Richard and Nolan Renwick, who has 14 goals and 13 assists in 41 games for Omaha in the United States Hockey League, head up the group of newcomers in 2021-22.