Maine Hockey Journal

Maine NCAA D-III Season Preview

All four of Maine’s NCAA D-III men’s ice hockey programs get underway this weekend, and it should be an exciting, and unexpected season. For one school, Bowdoin College, they hope to get back to the NCAA Tournament and go one step closer to that national title, while University of New England continues to build a program that’s only in its second year. For Colby College, they have the experience to make a run at the NESCAC title along with the University of Southern Maine, who is a team shrouded in anonymity, but that may not be a bad thing.

Bowdoin College begins their 2010-’11 looking to take care of unfinished business after last season where they went 19-7-1, earning their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002.

After falling, 9-2, to Oswego State, the Polar Bears looked poised to rebound and make a series run at the national title. They’re currently ranked No. 7 in the nation according preseason poll. The majority of players from last year’s squad will be returning including defenseman Kyle Shearer-Hardy, who posted 30 points (8G, 22A) to lead the Polar Bears in scoring.

The All-American is one of two captains on this year’s team, joining Brunswick native Owen Smith.

Bowdoin will have six of their top eight scorers from a year ago, including sophomore Dan Weiniger, who is the defending NESCAC Rookie of the Year, and leading goal-scoring Jeff Fanning, who lead the team with 15 goals.

With the departure of senior Chris Rossi, junior Richard Nerland will be the one in the net for the Polar Bears. In 11 games, he finished with an 8-8-0 record with a 3.05 GAA and a .881 save percentage.

Joining Nerland will be freshmen Bobby Kaminsky and Steve Messina.

Bowdoin will open their season on Friday at Sid Watson Arena against UMass-Boston.

Colby College is looking to rebound from what can only be described as an Oreo cookie type season.

The Mules began the year losing three of their first four games, before going on a run to earn at least a point in 12 straight games. That includes a stretch where they won six games in a row, but as the season came down to the wire, Colby finished with a 1-6-1 record before losing to arch rival Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals.

Much of that same team is returning to Colby as they only have nine freshmen on this year’s roster. The team will be lead by last year’s leading scorer, Bill Crinnion (12g, 19a) along with Wil Hartigan, who scored eight goals, 21 assists for 29 points in 24 games.

Colby coach Jim Tortorella’s squad has a tremendous amount of depth this season with an experienced lineup beginning in goal with Cody McKinney. The Weston, FL native finished last season 10-8-4 with a 2.52GAA and a .914 save percentage, and was often the best player on the ice despite the results.

Besides player personnel, the Mules also had a change behind the bench as former Colby player Arthur Fritch joins Tortorella as Colby’s new assistant coach.

Fritch played four years with Colby before moving on to play professionally in both Europe and North America. A graduate of Colby in 2008, he recorded 116 points in his career as a defenseman with the Mules, and is only one of two players in the hockey program to win All-American honors.

Colby’s first opponent will be Babson as they head to Alfond Arena in Waterville on Friday night.

With the prestige and history of the programs in Bowdoin and Colby, the University of New England program is still in its infancy.

In only its second season, UNE will still face some serious growing pains, but their first step will be to improve on their 3-22-0 record as they continue to build the program. However, much like last year, it won’t be about the wins for a team who didn’t win a game until after the Christmas break, and didn’t win their first game on home ice until the final game of the regular season.

It will be about building on upon the foundation they laid out two years ago when they went from a club team to now playing in the ECAC East.

Only two seniors return to this year’s team including leading scorer Jack Nolin (5g, 9a) and goaltender Mike Roper, who should see the majority of starts in net.

The Nor’easters will have one common thread on the team, which is the amount of locally grown talent from the Portland Jr. Pirates, who also play in the Biddeford/Saco area. UNE will have five former Jr. Pirates on the team including returning players Tyler Fleurent, Russ Franey, John Melancon and Paul Kashmanian.

Joining the group will be goaltender Connor Brogan, who spent the majority of the last two seasons with the Jr. Pirates.

The season doesn’t get off to an easy start for UNE as they travel to Northfield, VT to face the defending national champions Norwich University and won’t play their first game at Biddeford Ice Arena until Dec. 3 when they are home to Williams College.

Southern Maine’s other D-III school, the University of Southern Maine, is a team that has the most questions of the four D-III schools in the state. Albeit talented, they’re a bit of a mystery as to what to expect of them. They could be a team that finished last season with a disappointing 10-13-3 record or they could be a team ready to try and knock off Norwich as the ECAC East champs… It’s just too early to tell, but they’ll get an early chance to test themselves as they play at Norwich on Saturday.

Southern Maine coach Jeff Beaney enters his 24th season with the Huskies, and has built a very respectable program during his tenure. The Huskies, led by Co-Captains Zach Joy, Jon Rutt and Steve Wielder, are expected to be a hard working group with some offensive flair. Joy was USM’s leading point-getter last season with a team-high 20 goals as part of his 27 points on the season.

Dan Rautenberg is also back for his junior year and will look to improve on his 26 points from a year ago.

USM’s defense corp. will be a veteran group as three of the six starting defensemen are seniors including Paul Conter, who led the defense last season with 25 points. Joining him will be Minot native Mike Carpenter and co-Capt. Steve Wielder.

When Koray Celik went down with concussion like symptoms last season, the net was turned over to Mason St. Hilaire, who finished the season as the No. 1 goaltender, but he’ll have stiff competition for the top job from Braely Torris, who spent the last four years in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Drayton Valley Thunder. He played the third most minutes in that league, posting a respectable 3.79GAA with a .896 save percentage.

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