Just three years ago, Maine was a six-win team. Today, the Black Bears are coming off back-to-back above-.500 campaigns, and coach Rick Filighera thinks his program can compete with anyone this year.
“All of sudden, we show up a rink, we can win that game now, but we can also lose that game,” he said, in contrast to two years ago, when Maine lost to pretty much everybody. “If we execute we’re as good as anyone.”
Filighera’s views are justified as Maine took points from all of the Hockey East teams last year, including a 6-0-1 stretch where the Bears beat New Hampshire and Northeastern and tied Princeton. But the Black Bears struggled with consistency throughout the year.
Experience is what Filighera believes can elevate Maine this season. The Black Bears feature two of the top three returning scorers in Hockey East in Meagan Aarts and Karen Droog. The pair each put up 25 goals last season, and they accomplished that feat as sophomores.
The Black Bears also have an exceptional goaltender in Lara Smart, who earned time with the Canadian U-22 team over the summer. Senior Dawn Froats is also a strong, well-tested starting candidate.
While Maine scored goals at a higher rate than anyone else in the ECAC East last season, if the Black Bears are to improve, they’ll need greater contributions defensively. Filighera brought in a three defensemen, and he expects them to make an impact right away.
That could be the missing piece that makes the Black Bears a legitimate Hockey East contender. Time will tell.
“How they emotionally handle each game, each week will go a long way with our success,” Filighera said.