By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff
2) University of Maine
2009-10 record: 19-17-3 (13-12-2 HE)
Finish in HE: T-3rd (lost in tournament championship)
Key returners: Jr. F Gustav Nyquist (19-42-61), Jr. F Brian Flynn (19-28-47), Sr. F Tanner House (18-21-39), Jr. D Will O’Neill (8-23-31), Sr. D Jeff Dimmen (12-18-30), Jr. F Spencer Abbott (9-19-28), Sr. F Robby Dee (13-12-25), So. F Adam Shemansky (9-12-21)
Key losses: F David de Kastrozza (9-12-21), G Scott Darling (3.10, .895)
Notable freshmen: F Mark Anthoine, F Carlos Amestoy, G Martin Ouellette
Coach: Tim Whitehead
How they finished
The Black Bears went 12-2-2 from late November to early February, but then they backed into the playoffs on a 2-6-0 skid. They recovered from a Game 1 loss in the quarterfinals to knock off UMass-Lowell in three games and then beat BU in the semifinals. In the finals, they came out on the wrong end of a 7-6 overtime thriller against BC and just missed the NCAA Tournament.
The Black Bears are stacked on offense. They return 11 of their top 12 scorers, including each of their top seven, and 90.9 percent of their goals from last season’s second-ranked unit. Leading the way is Hobey Baker finalist Gustav Nyquist, who topped the nation with 61 points last year and is the odds-on Hobey favorite entering this season. Maine brings back six other players who recorded at least 25 points, too.
Defense and goaltending
Maine returns its top seven defensemen, but that group will have to be much better than its last-place ranking in the conference a year ago. Although the Black Bears have the potential to simply outscore everyone they play in up-and-down shootouts, better team defense will do wonders for any NCAA aspirations they have. Maine could also use better goaltending — Scott Darling, last year’s starter, ranked 10th in the league in save percentage and was dismissed from the team after the season. Rookie Martin Ouellette, a seventh-round NHL pick this summer, appears to have the inside track to the starting job and it’s hard to imagine him (or anyone else) not being able to improve on Darling’s numbers, especially if the defense provides more protection in front of him.