The 2016-2017 season was a frustrating one for the youthful University of Maine’s women’s ice hockey team.
UMaine finished last and was the only one of the nine Hockey East teams that failed to qualify for the league’s postseason tournament.
The Black Bears beat Boston College (28-6-5), which advanced to the Frozen Four, and had a couple of wins over Northeastern (22-12-3), which lost to Boston College in the Hockey East championship game.
UMaine wound up 10-21-1 overall, 6-17-1 in conference play.
Richard Reichenbach, who is in his fourth season as the head coach, said during a league conference call on Wednesday morning that he is looking forward to the upcoming season.
“We’re really excited about this year’s team. We have more skill than we had last year, and more depth. We were disappointed that we didn’t make the playoffs last year,” said Reichenbach. “We beat all three Boston schools so we showed we could play with anyone when we put it together.”
UMaine has 18 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, “and we’re going to have to count on them a lot to play in key situations.”
Two of the young players he will be relying on are Czech National Team players and sophomore linemates Tereza Vanisova and Vendula Pribylova.
Right winger Vanisova, the Hockey East Co-Rookie of the Year, shared the team scoring lead with Brooke Stacey with 28 points as she had a team-high 16 goals and 12 assists in 28 games. Pribylova was the team’s fourth-leading scorer (4 goals, 11 assists).
Stacey will be another key component. The senior center (15 goals, 13 assists) was an All-Hockey East honorable mention last season.
Senior left wing Catherine Tufts (9 & 4) will supply leadership and solid two-way play and Reichenbach said sophomore center Jessica Jacques (2 & 0) appears ready to take a big step. Freshmen Michelle Weis from Denmark, Josefine Engmann from Norway and Daria Tereshkina from Russia could be impact players.
Junior Alyson Matteau, the team’s No. 3 scorer (3 & 15), heads up the defense corps along with fifth-year senior Kristin Gilmour (1 & 4), who has battled injuries throughout her career.
Senior Mikayla Rogers and sophomores Brittany Colton and Brittany Kucera should benefit from a year of experience and Czech freshman Anna Zikova could provide immediate help.
Carly Jackson (7-18-1, 2.84 goals-against average, .911 save percentage) won the goaltending job as a freshman and Reichenbach said, “we’re counting on her moving forward and establishing herself as one of the best goalies in Hockey East.”
Boston University coach Brian Durocher said he expects Maine to “move up the ladder.
“They’ve got some very talented individuals (coming back) and they’ve added more international kids who will not only add talent and flavor to the team but they’re also good to have in the locker room,” said Durocher.
UMaine will play an exhibition game on Friday night at the Midcoast Recreation Center in Rockport against the Hockey Training Institute of Ontario beginning at 7 and will open the season against visiting No. 9 Quinnipiac (Connecticut) on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30 at 7 and 3, respectively.