It was a bittersweet 2014-15 season for the University of Maine women’s ice hockey team.
The Black Bears earned their first-ever Hockey East home playoff berth by finishing fourth.
But they were swept by the University of Connecticut in their best-of-three quarterfinal series. The two losses meant they finished the season with an eight-game losing streak, being outscored 28-9 during the skid.
Third-year head coach Richard Reichenbach said he and assistant coaches Sara Reichenbach and Kendall Newell spent a lot of time analyzing the demise.
“It is definitely something that is fresh in our minds. Down the stretch, we didn’t get it done,” said Reichenbach. “We didn’t score a lot of goals but, at the end of the day, we need to be able to focus and be motivated to do what we need to do every game.”
This year’s seniors will be looking for their first-ever playoff win after going 0-4 the previous three seasons.
Maine (10-20-3 overall a year ago, 9-11-1 in Hockey East) opens its season Friday night at New Hampshire before returning home for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday against eighth-ranked Boston University.
“We have to get over that hump. We have to go from a program that proved it can play with anyone to one that wins consistently,” said Reichenbach, whose team was picked fourth in the preseason coaches poll.
The Black Bears do have a game-changer to build around in Meghann Treacy.
The senior goalie was a first-team All-Hockey East selection a year ago when she posted a 2.41 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage to go with her 9-18-2 record. She had the nation’s 12th best save percentage.
Reichenbach expects his team to improve on last year’s 1.64 goals per game, which ranked 30th among 34 Division I teams, and their 8.1 percent efficient power play, which was 33rd.
Emilie Brigham, who led the team in scoring as a sophomore last year with 18 points on eight goals and 10 assists, senior Audra Richards (9 & 8) and sophomore Brooke Stacey (4 & 7) are the top returning scorers. Reichenbach is expecting more production from them this season.
Sophomore Morgan Sakundiak (2 & 6) and converted 6-foot junior defenseman Jess Vallotton are two more catalysts up front and tall, rangy freshmen Lydia Murray and Nicole Arnold could make an instant impact, according to Reichenbach.
Senior Kelsey MacSorley, an All-Hockey East honorable mention who led the league’s defensemen in league goals with six, headlines the defense corps along with classmate Brooklyn Langlois (0 & 5). Junior Kristin Gilmour (2 & 3) will give them a lift when she returns from hip surgery and sophomore Mikayla Rogers will have a more elevated role.
Freshman Alyson Matteau, daughter of former Stanley Cup hero Stephane Matteau and a Canadian Under-18 women’s team player, has the hardest shot on the team, according to Reichenbach, and should produce points on the blue line. Cassidy Herman is another freshman defenseman with offensive skills.