University of Maine senior left winger Didrik Henbrant transferred to Orono this season from University of Alaska Fairbanks. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

Before he transferred to the University of Maine men’s hockey team, Didrik Henbrant already had fond memories of Alfond Arena.

He was playing for the University of Alaska Fairbanks last January when his Nanooks split a two-game series against UMaine in which he had three assists in a 6-2 win and a goal in a 4-2 loss.

“There was a good vibe to it,” said left winger Henbrant of Alfond Arena. “The ice was good. I liked the crowd.”

Henbrant, a senior in his first year with the Black Bears, will have a unique experience this weekend when UMaine entertains the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks’ archrival. Henbrant enters the game having come to life of late with two goals and three assists in his last seven games.

The 6-9-2 Black Bears and 4-12 Seawolves — who swept nationally ranked UMass Lowell last weekend 4-2 and 3-2 — will play on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m.

“It is definitely a big rivalry,” Henbrant said of the two-game series. “I really want to beat Anchorage.”

Henbrant only played the Seawolves his freshman season and the Nanooks won three of the four meetings. The 2020-21 season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic and Alaska Anchorage didn’t have a team last season.

Henbrant led the Nanooks in goals with 11 last season and he tied for second in points with 20 as he also had nine assists, including the three in Orono.

But the Nanooks were not in a conference last season, and as an independent team they were forced to do a lot of traveling.

Henbrant felt it was time to move on.

“It wasn’t a tough decision. I knew all the time I wanted to try something else, a different experience,” Henbrant said.

Henbrant got off to a slow start with the Black Bears, notching just two assists through his first eight games.

“It took me five or six games to get into it,” said the native of Sturefors, Sweden. “But I’m feeling more comfortable now. I’m having some fun with it.”

UMaine head coach Ben Barr said Henbrant has a big upside.

“He is a high-energy guy who can really skate and has a good skill level,” Barr said. “He plays in all situations and he can play on a line with anyone.”

Barr added that he thinks the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Henbrant will have a good second half of the season.

Junior center Nolan Renwick, who has been Henbrant’s linemate of late, agreed with Barr.

“He is going to be a big performer for us down the road. He has been improving every game. He is very good on his skates. He is so fluid and quick and he has great edges.”

UMaine graduate student defenseman and captain Jakub Sirota said Henbrant has a lot of potential.

“He is one of the fastest kids on the ice and he brings a lot of value to the team,” Sirota said. “He makes plays, he wins puck battles. The only that has been missing has been the scoring but he’s going to get there.”

Henbrant said he is enjoying his time in Orono and said the atmosphere in Alfond Arena on game night is unreal.

“It’s probably the best in college hockey. It’s the best one I’ve experienced. It’s really special.”