The Maine Black Bears are Division 1 Hockey's most eastern team. The UAA Seawolves are the most western. They meet this Friday evening for the first time since October 17th, 2008 when UAA defeated them 3-1 in Fairbainks. If one imagines these teams don't face each other very often due to geography, one would be correct. But this season that won't be the case. In a couple of weeks, the Black Bears will host the Seawolves in Orono.
Maine played an exhibition game last weekend against New Brunswick. Like the Seawolves they bagged 8 goals. They gave up 3. They're a bit older than UAA with a 21 year and 2 month old average to the Seawolves 20 years and 3 months. They've got 5 senior skaters, 6 juniors, 6 sophomores and 6 freshman on the roster. UAA is composed of 5 seniors, 6 juniors, 7 sophomores and 6 freshman skaters.
They return their leading scorer from last season, junior Devin Shore. He tallied 14 goals and 29 assists. Joining him is junior defenseman Ben Hutton who scored 15 goals and added 14 assists. Overall, their scoring last year was pretty well balanced. Of the guys scoring 8 or more goals, 5 return this season. They had a total of 8 guys with at least 6 goals and all but two are still on the roster.
This looks to be a team that could be a threat regardless of which line is taking it's shift. None of their stats from last year are world shaking but experience is always a good thing and they've got more than enough of it to make them a bit of a scary opponent. Expect their top line to be dangerous.
UAA could have it's hands full with the Black Bears, have no doubt. The Hockey East Coaches Poll pegged Maine to finish 9th in their 12 team league. But they weren't too many votes away from the sixth spot in a grouping of 4 teams from 74-83 points.
This is a team that by all accounts looks to be improved from last season when they finished 6th with a 16-15-4 record overall. They were 9-8-3 in Hockey East. Like the Seawolves, the Black Bears will be looking for a goaltender to step up and take the job after losing senior Martin Oullette who sometimes carried their team last year. Junior Matt Morris sat out last season due to hip surgery and they've got two freshman, Nik Nugnes and Sean Romeo.
Anyone else seeing an eery trend? Did I mention that their Head Coach Red Gendron is in his second year just like Matt Thomas? These two teams have a fair number of similar attributes. The Black Bears had a pretty solid defense last year ranked 13th overall in the country and return a fair bit of experience there so penetrating and scoring could be a big challenge for the Seawolves.
I think Friday night comes down to which team wants it more. Home ice should play a factor and the 'wolves are always tough in their own tourney. You won't find me picking against UAA here. I gotta figure they come out on top Friday night.