University of Maine sophomore David Breazeale after hockey practice on Sept 21, 2022 at Alfond Arena. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Fifteen months ago, David Breazeale faced an uncertain future in hockey.

After captaining the Shreveport (Louisiana) Mudbugs to the Robertson Cup awarded to the North American (Junior) Hockey League playoff champion, he had to choose between playing hockey at a Division III school or staying in the juniors in hopes of eventually attending a Division I school.

But UMaine offered him a scholarship based on the assessment of assistant head coach Jason Fortier, who had coached against him in the North American Hockey League and was impressed by him

It paid off big time.

Not only did Breazeale quickly become an all-situation defenseman at UMaine, he had an outstanding freshman season that landed him on the Hockey East All-Rookie team. Now he is coming into his sophomore season with an “A” on his jersey after being named one of the team’s assistant captains.

Breazeale was third on the team in points with 16 and second in assists with 14. He led the team in blocked shots with 30 and in plus-minus at plus-two.

A player receives a plus-one when his team scores an even-strength or short-handed goal while he’s on the ice, and minus-one when the opponent scores.

Breazeale’s first goal was an overtime game-winner and supplied first-year head coach Ben Barr with his first win, a 6-5 triumph over Merrimack.

“It has been a crazy year and a half, that’s for sure. It’s hard to describe,” said Breazeale after Wednesday’s practice at Alfond Arena. “It’s pretty cool. It has been an exciting experience. I am really grateful to the coaching staff and the guys on the team for helping me get there.”

UMaine junior center Lynden Breen said that no one deserves the assistant captain honor more than Breazeale.

University of Maine men’s ice hockey practice on Sept. 21, 2022 at Alfond Arena. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

“I have no idea why he didn’t get scooped up before we picked him up,” Breen said.

Breazeale, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound native of Jenison, Michigan, who grew up a UMaine hockey fan along with his family, said he learned last year that the college game was physical and fast and that small mistakes can create big problems.

“It’s a matter of learning from your mistakes and not repeating them. If all of us can carry that into this season, it will be really beneficial for us.”

His off-season focus was working on his shot and his skating. He spent six weeks with his UMaine teammates in Orono this summer working out on and off the ice.

“It was a really good summer. My shot and my skating have come a long way,” said Breazeale. “My agility and quickness have improved, especially my first three strides. That has been a big thing.”

Junior winger Ben Poisson said Breazeale deserves the accolades.

“Every extra opportunity he has, he’s in the gym, on the ice or watching videos. He wants to get better. He has put in the work,” said Poisson, who added that it isn’t any fun going up against him in practice.

“It sucks,” Poisson said with a laugh. “He’s big, he’s strong, he can skate and he moves the puck.”

Barr called him a “high-character” kid.

“He isn’t flashy in any aspect but he is a student of the game and is an incredibly hard worker,” said Barr, who added that Breazeale was a standout last season.

Breazeale is excited about the season.

The Black Bears, 7-22-4 overall and 5-17-2 in Hockey East last year, have returned 12 players, including their top six scorers, and have added 16 newcomers.

“Our depth is going to be our strength as well as our conditioning,” Breazeale said. “We’re a team that wants to go and play fast. And any guy can play on any night. That’s the exciting part.”

He added that it will be tough for the coaches to construct lineups and that he and his teammates will be fighting in practice every day to earn a spot.

He wants to continue to make strides individually but noted that it is more important for the team to make strides.

Breazeale said the six weeks the team spent together this summer was valuable in creating team chemistry and a positive culture.

“We’re itching to get after it,” said Breazeale, whose Black Bears host the University of Prince Edward Island in an exhibition game on Oct. 1 before going to Colorado for the Ice Breaker Tournament with games against the Air Force Academy on Oct. 7 and defending national champ Denver the next night.