In this March 2021 file photo, University of Maine players follow the action from the bench during the Hockey East playoff game against the University of New Hampshire at Alfond Arena in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

The Hockey East coaches may feel that first-year head coach Ben Barr is going to turn the University of Maine’s hockey program into a consistent winner again.

But they definitely don’t think it is going to happen this season.

The Black Bears were picked to finish 10th in the 11-team league in the coaches’ annual preseason poll announced on Monday.

Only Vermont was picked below the Black Bears, who have two NCAA championships, 11 Frozen Fours and 18 NCAA Tournament appearances on their lifetime resume.

Defending national champion UMass is the favorite, garnering 107 points and eight first-place votes. Boston University was chosen second with 95 points and one-first place vote and rival Boston College was picked third with 89 points and the other two first-place votes.

Rounding out the rest of the league was Northeastern (86 points), Providence (75), UConn (66), UMass Lowell (58), New Hampshire (46), Merrimack (37), UMaine (32) and Vermont (24).

UMaine has not reached the Hockey East semifinals since the 2011-12 season. That was also the last time the Black Bears earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

UMaine has had one top four finish since then and that was in the 2019-20 season when the playoffs and NCAA Tournament were wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Black Bears wound up fourth and were going to host fifth seed UConn in a best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series when the season ended.

UMaine also finished fourth in 2011-12.

Since the 2011-12 season, UMaine has finished 11th twice when it was a 12-team league; 10th (last season), ninth, seventh (twice), sixth and fifth along with that fourth-place finish in 2019-20.

UMaine returns seven of its top eight scorers, six defensemen and all three goalies off last season’s 3-11-2 team that had to play all of its regular season games on the road due to COVID-19 restrictions in Maine and at the university.

UMaine has also added four transfers and three freshmen.  

The Black Bears did host a playoff game against New Hampshire but were eliminated by the Wildcats 7-2.

All 11 teams will again make the Hockey East Tournament this season and it will be single elimination. The top five teams will receive first-round byes and teams sixth through 11th will play off (6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, 8 vs. 9) for the other three quarterfinal spots.

The semifinals and championship game will return to the TD Garden in Boston after the whole tournament was played at the home rinks of the higher seeded teams last season.

Former UMaine head coach Red Gendron, who was going to return for his ninth season, collapsed and died on April 9 while playing golf at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono. UMass associate head coach Barr was chosen as the new head coach.

The 39-year-old Barr has recruited players for NCAA championship teams at UMass, Providence and Union College. 

UMaine will play a closed exhibition game against ECAC power Quinnipiac on Saturday at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

UMaine will open its season on the road against the University of Nebraska Omaha on Oct. 8-9 before playing its home openers against Sacred Heart (Connecticut) on Oct. 22-23. 

UMaine’s first Hockey East game will be at Northeastern in Boston on Oct. 29-30.