The University of Maine men’s hockey team will rely heavily on its top line heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. Hockey East quarterfinal series opener at Northeastern University in Boston.
UMaine’s first line, made up of junior center Chase Pearson between junior left wing Mitch Fossier and sophomore right wing Eduards Tralmaks, will be expected to be the catalyst for the Black Bears in their best-of-three series.
UMaine has received valuable supplemental scoring of late, leading to its 5-1-1 record in the past seven games, but the top line must produce.
Fossier, an alternate captain, leads the team with 36 points behind a team-best 28 assists along with eight goals in 34 games. Co-captain Pearson has a team-leading 16 goals with 13 assists for 29 points, which are second most on the team.
Tralmaks has eight goals and nine assists for 17 points.
“It’s one of the top lines in the league,” said Greg Carvel, head coach of the Hockey East regular-season champion, the University of Massachusetts. “They’re the heart and soul of their team.”
In the 22 games they have played together, Fossier, Pearson and Tralmaks have combined for 19 goals and 34 assists.
“They’re a good combination of speed, grit and goal scoring, and they each have all three elements,” Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Pearson said the line has a combination of skill, size and speed, and benefits from the chemistry it has developed through playing together a long time. Their physicality is another key.
“Eduards is a big guy [6-4, 210], I’m a big guy and when we get in on the forecheck, we can turn pucks over and create offensive chances,” said Pearson, who credited Fossier’s exceptional passing as an important factor.
“Mitch is obviously one of the best playmakers in college hockey, so we have to get open for him,” Tralmaks said.” I’m just grinding deep trying to get the puck to them because they can make plays.”
Tralmaks said because they played together for 13 of the past 14 games last season in addition to 22 games this season, the trio has a good feel for each other.
The tenacity and strength on the puck of Pearson and Tralmaks is complemented by Fossier’s creativity, skill and quickness. Pearson and Tralmaks can also rifle the puck, and Fossier has a good shot.
Pearson, a top-notch faceoff man, leads UMaine with 93 shots on goal, while Fossier (88) is fourth and Tralmaks (87) is fifth.
In a recent sweep of Boston College by 2-1 scores, Fossier scored the overtime game-winner with Pearson and Tralmaks assisting, and Tralmaks scored the deciding goal in the other victory with Fossier getting an assist.
“They can change the momentum of a game in one shift,” UMaine sophomore goalie Jeremy Swayman said.
UMaine senior defenseman Rob Michel said he has been motivated by having the chance to practice against the top line.
“They push me to be better, and it simulates going up against the top line on the opposing team,” Michel said.
Tralmaks, Fossier and Pearson also play exceptional defense, and often are matched up with the opposing team’s top scoring line. Pearson leads the team in plus-minus at plus-20 and the line is a combined plus-43 this season.
Players receive a plus-one if they are on the ice when their team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus one if the opponent scores.
Pearson said the team’s overall consistent play of late has aided his line’s performance.
Tralmaks said all four lines are playing well right now, and the team is playing with confidence. He said he is looking forward to the series, especially since he has never beaten Northeastern in four tries.
“There’s always a first time for something,” Tralmaks said.