Maine Hockey Journal

UNE enters new season with higher expectations

The pieces are in place and now it’s time for the University of New England men’s hockey team to make the jump from a building program to a program that will contend for the school’s first ECAC East title.

A home-ice berth in the first round of the ECAC East playoffs this season is considered goal number one.

After making the jump to NCAA Division III hockey in 2008, the Nor’easters begin its sixth season in ECAC East with bigger expectations. The program finished last season with a 10-15-1 overall record (7-11-0 ECAC East), which was a program-best for wins. Head coach Brad Holt knows the UNE program is no longer in their building stages and expected to be a competitive team in 2014-15.

“I think we are poised to really make a move in our league,” Holt said. “It’s hard to tell this early stage on how that’s going to transpire, but really good things have happened with the program. With the players we have, the maturity level, we are really optimistic about the year.”

Holt expects the ECAC East to play out like last year did at the top of the conference with Norwich, Babson and UMass-Boston all battling it out. Babson won the conference tournament last year and was joined with Norwich in the NCAA Tournament.

Babson lost to Oswego in the quarterfinals while the Cadets also lost in the quarterfinals to Geneseo.

After those three teams, that fourth and final home ice advantage spot is up for grabs for the other five other teams in the conference that’s eligible for the conference tournament.

“I think that there’s a bunch of us that fall into the fray, and it will be really interesting to see who will be able to rise to the top of that,” Holt said. “There’s no guarantee those three are going to be where we think they are, but there’s still a home-ice playoff berth potentially at stake.”

The pollsters of USCHO’s Division III Top 15 poll agree Norwich and Babson will be the top two teams in the conference after they were ranked seventh and eighth nationally in the preseason poll. UMass-Boston received six votes. New England College received two votes, and Castleton received one vote.

UNE brings back their top seven scorers from last year’s squad. Jared Melman led the team with 16 goals and 11 assists in 24 games. Zeth Zielinski (18 points) and Trevor Fleurent (17 points) each had seven goals.

Holt expects Tom Gildersleeve, who will be entering his junior season to have a breakout season. He had two goals and 11 assists in 20 games.

“I am really excited for the future of Trevor (Fleurent), I think he, Jared Melman and Thomas Gildersleeve could end up 1-2-3 in scoring, who knows in what order,” Holt said.

Holt also said Melman could miss the season opener against Stonehill on Friday night as he suffered an injury in a scrimmage as he went to block a shot with two seconds remaining in the contest. Holt does not expect Melman to miss any action next weekend against Castleton.

Holt expects Colby Drost, who was in net for all of UNE’s ten victories last season, to see the bulk of the action again this season with fellow junior Craig Ryan backing him up.

UNE has been able to lure a few Division I transfers the last few years including Drost and Patrick Borer. Both played for Niagara University and this year they will be joined by former University of Maine defenseman and Bowdoinham native Kyle Williams.

“It really helps in two ways, one he’s clearly a very good player and when coach (Red) Gendron and I talked about it, he made that very clear,” Holt said. “Also the second thing he said was, he’s a great kid and that’s so true. He just adds a maturity, a calming influence. We will really enjoy him on the ice. He’s smooth. That first pass is great, and he’s very skilled, very disciplined. He’s such a character guy, and I really enjoyed getting to know him.”

Holt is excited about freshman defenseman Ian Rodden, who played the last four years with the brother of UNE’s assistant coach Jason Tremblay’s, Sean, with both the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs and the Middlesex Islanders.

Last year with Islanders’ USPHL Premier team he had three goals and two assists in 42 games.

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