ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team’s 26 returnees have been making the transition to a new coaching regime while three transfers and three freshmen experience their first training camp in Orono.
There is one returning member of the late Red Gendron’s coaching staff in assistant and goalie coach Alfie Michaud, who was retained by new head coach and former University of Massachusetts associate head coach Ben Barr.
Gendron would have been in his ninth season as the head coach at UMaine, but he collapsed and died while playing golf at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono on April 9.
Barr has brought in Jason Fortier to replace Ben Guite, who is now the head coach of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners, and he has also hired volunteer assistant and former UMaine winger Danny Perez.
Matthew Vanden Berg is in the new position as the director of player development while also serving as the video coordinator.
“It took us a couple of weeks to adapt,” said senior left wing Adam Dawe, one of the team’s captains, at the team’s media day on Thursday.
“There have been a lot of good things. There have been some different drills so we have to be more focused on the ice. There are a lot of little details. You have to be on your toes at all times.”
“Coach Gendron and Coach Barr had different styles,” sophomore center Lyndon Breen said. “Coach Barr is a lot younger and has a little more energy. Our practices are shorter but more intense now.”
The team watches a lot of video and some of it involves Barr’s UMass teams which is a change, Breen said.
UMass won its first NCAA championship last spring.
“It shows us ways to get better,” Breen said. “I think all of us are excited for something new.”
Senior left wing Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup said “you have a little more in the tank so you’re able to give 100 percent all the time” in shorter, more intense practices.
“We get stuff done, we work on the things we need to in order to get better,” said Schmidt-Svejstrup, another one of the captains.
The team is learning to play a different style of hockey which comes with more of a learning curve, graduate student and captain Jack Quinlivan said.
“[Barr] expects you to do different things with the puck than Red. It’s a whole new system. The offense will have a different look. It will be more creative and we will have more continuity within lines,” Quinlivan said.
Their season will all depend on the players, he said.
“It’s up to us, the players. The coaches are going to give us all the resources we need in order to succeed. It’ll come down to us executing the system and game plan,” Quinlivan said. “Everybody is underestimating us in my opinion.”
Two of the newcomers — left wing Matthew Fawcett, a transfer from Quinnipiac, and freshman defenseman David Breazeale — said they are enjoying their first season in Orono.
“It has been a great transition so far,” Fawcett said. “We have a good team all around. We’re all adjusting really well to the new systems. We’re going to play a high-paced, skilled game.”
He added that the team has a lot of depth in its forwards and defense, and good goalies.
“I’m loving it here. Everybody has been so welcoming,” Breazeale said. “They understand that you are going to make mistakes as a freshman but the guys will take you under their wing and help you. We are always working on something. It’s about being efficient and Coach Barr is always preaching that we need to be efficient in what we do.”
UMaine will play a closed exhibition game against Quinnipiac (Connecticut) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and will open the season at the University of Nebraska at Omaha on Oct. 8-9.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the ECHL.