The second decade of the 21st century has been a forgettable one for University of Maine hockey fans. The lows, unfortunately, outweighed the highs from 2010-2019 for this once fabled program. The Black Bears made just one NCAA Tournament appearance, that coming in the 2011-12 season. Dismal. They also had just two showings in the Hockey East tournament semifinals. One in 2010 and one also coming in the spring in 2012, ending with a championship game loss to Boston College.
That’s a far cry from the five Frozen Four and two National Championship game appearances UMaine posted between 2000 and 2010, with both national title game losses coming in heartbreaking fashion.
While the last decade didn’t yield outstanding team result in Orono, the Bears certainly had some great players, from Gustav Nyquist to Devin Shore, and Ben Hutton to Jeremy Swayman, grace the Alfond Arena ice over the last 10 years.
As for that 2011-12 team, who knows how far that team could’ve gone had Spencer Abbott not gotten hurt (concussion) in the Hockey East semifinals and had goaltender Scott Darling kept his act together? Those Bears had a one-and-done NCAA Tourney experience, and following a sub-500 2012-13 season, coach Tim Whitehead was shown the door.
Former Shawn Walsh assistant Red Gendron was brought in the following season, and his teams haven’t sniffed TD Garden, let alone the NCAA Tournament.
None of Gendron’s teams have finished higher than sixth in Hockey East. UMaine fans aren’t seeing the speed and consistency offensively. Let’s remember that Whitehead recruited some surefire offensive talent – Nyquist and Shore are atop that list – to Orono. None of Gendron’s teams have featured that offensive game-changer.
What will the next decade bring for the Black Bears? That remains to be seen. But fans are growing tired of mediocrity.
BY RYAN MCLAUGHLIN