University of Maine men's hockey team assistant captain Lynden Breen takes a shot on goal during a game against the University of Denver in the Ice Breaker Tournament on Oct. 8, 2022, in Denver, Colorado. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

It doesn’t take long to notice Lynden Breen on the ice.

The University of Maine’s junior center is always seemingly flying down the ice at 100 mph chasing down loose pucks, stickhandling or backchecking.

He’s also the only Black Bear with two goals after two games this season, after leading UMaine in scoring a year ago.

He had 25 points in 33 games last season and also led the team in assists (16) while tying for second in goals scored with nine. His 105 shots on goal were tops. In his first season, he was tied for second on the team in scoring with 11 points during UMaine’s abbreviated 16-game schedule with three goals and eight assists.  

Breen is just 5-foot-9, 173 pounds but he plays much bigger than his size. The assistant captain will be a key component in the Black Bears’ attempt to begin an ascension up the Hockey East standings after finishing last a year ago.

“He is like the Energizer bunny,” said UMaine head coach Ben Barr. “He will do anything you ask of him.”

His longtime linemate, senior Ben Poisson, said Breen’s work ethic is second to none and he is a good role model.

“He is always the first one on the ice and the last one off it,” Poisson said.

Breen is dedicated to self-improvement and spearheading a UMaine hockey resurgence.

UMaine has 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 Frozen Fours and two NCAA titles but hasn’t even reached the Hockey East semifinals or NCAA tourney since the 2011-12 season.

“I want to learn how to keep getting better every day. It’s hard to do when you have been playing for so long. But if I can find ways to get better even in the smallest ways every day, 1 percent better, it will go a long way toward how much I can help the team as well,” Breen said.

Between working out with friends in his native Grand Bay-Westfield, New Brunswick, or with his Black Bear teammates in Orono, Breen spent the offseason becoming even quicker on his skates.

“The big thing for me was getting an extra step in my skating. I’ve always been pretty quick but I wanted to be able to gain an extra step on a defenseman, lengthen my stride a little bit with my first couple steps, and gain a little more power and strength in my lower body,” Breen said.

UMaine graduate student defenseman and captain Jakub Sirota said Breen is difficult to handle in one-on-one situations especially for big guys like himself.

“It’s very hard. He stops and starts in different directions so fast,” Sirota said. “It’s a little easier in the corner where you can wrap him up but it’s really hard to defend him in open ice.”

Breen said working with UMaine sports performance coach Codi Fitzgerald during the summer has been beneficial for the whole team.

“Being here since July, strength-wise and quickness-wise, [Fitzgerald] has gotten us so much stronger. I definitely feel stronger on my feet,” said Breen, who added that his low center of gravity and increased speed and strength help him hold his ground.

“That’s something that has paid off for me, being able to be quick and sturdy on my feet,” he said.

He has also focused on the defensive aspect of his game.

“As an offensive player, I know [the offense] will come for me. So I’ve focused more on the defensive side of the puck. And I also want to be a big part of the penalty kill to even out my game,” said Breen, who scored a crucial shorthanded goal in the season-opening win at the United States Air Force Academy to make it 3-1, and added an insurance goal later in the 4-1 victory.

Barr said that is the challenge for Breen, the former Most Valuable Player for the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.

“He is a puck hound who has the puck a lot. He can score, he can shoot, he can make plays,” Barr said. “But can he think the game when he doesn’t have the puck? Can he be good enough in our zone so that it leads to offense on the other side?”

It’s the coaches’ job, Barr said, to push Breen to get better, adding that Breen has the skillset and work ethic to become an elite player.

The Black Bears, who lost to defending national champion and current No. 1 Denver 3-1 in the championship game at the Ice Breaker Tournament in Colorado last weekend, will travel to Waltham, Massachusetts, Saturday night to play Atlantic Hockey team Bentley University at 5 p.m.

Bentley was picked eighth among 10 teams in the Atlantic Hockey preseason poll and is 0-2 after losing to Union College 5-1 on Thursday night. Bentley lost to Boston University 8-2 last weekend.

“All of the freshmen and transfers are all doing extra work and are all contributing. We never had to push them. It’s kind of cool to see guys thrive in their first two college games for us,” Breen said.

“Those young guys are going to be the ones who mainly turn the program around in a couple of years but we are going to do everything we can to turn it around this year.”