University of Maine sophomore center Nolan Renwick has improved this season, scoring four goals and dishing six assists in 21 games compared with four goals and seven assists in 33 games a year ago. Credit: Courtesy UMaine Athletics

Sophomore center Nolan Renwick had a decent freshman year for the University of Maine’s hockey team last year and he is having an even better sophomore season.

He had four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 33 games a year ago and already has four goals and six assists for 10 points through 21 games this season.

But Renwick said he feels he is “just scratching the surface” and that he is capable of much more as he and his Black Bear teammates prepare to visit No. 5 Boston University for a pair of Hockey East games Friday and Saturday night.

“I’ve got a lot more to give to this hockey team,” said Renwick.

Specifically, Renwick wants to start putting pucks in the net on a more regular basis.

“It obviously comes from hard work. I’ve got to learn to be in the right spots at the right times, especially at the net front,” he said. “I’ve got to pick my head up, pick my spots and put some force on my shots. That has to be part of my game. I’ve got to get those greasy [net-front] goals, tip-ins and rebounds. I just have to keep working at it.”

UMaine head coach Ben Barr agrees.

“He should be scoring net-front goals all the time,” said Barr. “He is 215 pounds of muscle, he can skate and he has a decent skill set. 

Barr said when Renwick is “moving his feet, finishing his checks and getting in on the forecheck,” like he did in Saturday night’s 5-3 win over nationally ranked UMass Lowell, he is a “tough guy to handle.”

“He was a beast out there,” Barr said.

Renwick has been playing the best hockey of his career over the last 10 games. During that span, he has notched two goals and five assists, and his plus-minus rating is plus-five.

A player receives a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the opponent scores one.

He is plus-five on the season after being minus-13 a year ago.

Renwick plays in all situations and is one of the nation’s best faceoff men, winning 58.6 percent of his faceoff draws.

“Obviously, I try to own the (faceoff) dot. I use my strength to my advantage. I get a lot of leverage on my stick and try to overpower the guys I am going against,” said Renwick.

“He is progressing. He is an unbelievable kid,” said Barr. “He does everything well. He just doesn’t do anything great, and we have to get him to do things great because he is capable of it. He is always going to be a good player, but it’s our job as coaches to push him out of his comfort zone and help him become an excellent player who can go on to play this game for a long time.”

Renwick, who’s from Milestone, Saskatchewan, a small Canadian town with a population of 699, came into this season wanting to “step up and play a bigger role” and he has.

He said he worked on his skating during the offseason and feels it has “gotten a little better.

“Obviously, I’m a big body so any time I can gain a little speed, it will impact my game and help me get in on the forecheck. That adds to my physical presence,” he said. “That has been an improvement but there is still more room for improvement. If we want to win more games, I have to step up even more.”

One of the issues that has hurt the Black Bears is the power play, which is operating at 11.9 percent. Only four teams among the 60 in Division I have a worse percentage.

“It hasn’t been good enough,” said Renwick. “That’s on us. We have all the systems in place, but, at the end of the day, it comes down to execution. Guys like me have to step up, demand the puck and put it in the back of the net.”

Junior center Lynden Breen said Renwick is someone the team rely on, and he has delivered.

“He always plays the right way, and when you do that, good things happen,” said Breen. “We count on him in every situation. We trust him to get the job done for us.”

“He’s a very good center and is one of the leaders on the team,” added captain and graduate student defenseman Jakub Sirota.

The Black Bears will take an overall record of 9-10-2 and a Hockey East record of 3-6-1 to Boston this weekend. BU is 15-6 and 9-4, respectively.

UMaine has already exceeded last year’s win total (7-22-4), but Renwick said they still have a lot to prove.

“We have come a long way from last year. A lot of people tell us we could be good in a couple of years,” said Renwick. “But the mindset in the locker room is we want to be good now. We have 14 games left, so it comes down to getting better every day. If we can do that and we all buy in to what Coach Barr is trying to do, we have a good chance of having even more success than people may have expected.”