The University of Maine’s men’s hockey team has lost a goalie and gained another in his place.
Freshman Patriks Berzins from Latvia returned to the United States (Junior) Hockey League, and his position has been taken by Swedish goalie Albin Boija.
Boija joins fellow Swede Victor Ostman, an All-Hockey East second team selection last season, and Connor Androlewicz, both seniors. Boija is practicing with the team now.
The switch from Berzins to Boija comes after the NCAA ruled that a number of Latvian players were deemed to be professionals because of the league they played in, which made them ineligible to play college hockey in the United States, according to UMaine third-year head coach Ben Barr.
“That was a surprise to us,” Barr said.
UMaine appealed the decision and Berzins regained his amateur status last month but received a 20-game suspension from the NCAA. At that point, Barr said the team didn’t have time to pursue a reduction of the suspension and needed a goalie immediately.
A childhood friend of Barr’s recommended Boija to the coach.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 181-pound Boija played for the Vaxjo Lakers in J20 Nationell, a 20-team league considered the best junior league in Sweden.
He posted a 26-16 record, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage during the regular season and was 1-2, 1.82, .932 in three playoff games.
“He is super competitive, very athletic and he has a great attitude,” Barr said.
Barr said the string of events is “unfortunate” for Berzins, who had been working out with the team during their optional six-week summer training camp in Orono. The team hopes to have Berzins at UMaine next season as this is Ostman and Androlewicz’s final season.
Berzins returned to the USHL where he played last season. The Latvian Junior National Team goalie will play for Madison this season after playing for Tri-City a year ago.
“Fortunately, he has one more year of eligibility remaining in juniors and another year in the USHL will be good for him,” Barr said.
Berzins was 11-3-1 with a 2.66 GAA and a .890 save percentage for Tri-City in the USHL a year ago. Tri-City traded him to Madison.
UMaine will open the season with an exhibition game against archrival New Hampshire at the Jack Kelley Rink in the O’Neil/O’Donnell Forum on the Colby College campus in Waterville on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m.
The Black Bears’ regular season openers will be the following Thursday and Friday, Oct. 12-13, against ECAC team Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from Troy, New York, at 7 p.m. in Orono.