ORONO, Maine — No one would have blamed the Maine Black Bears for coming out of the gate sluggish in Friday night’s exhibition game against the University of Moncton at Alfond Arena. In the last week and a half, the team has had to deal with the death of coach Shawn Walsh, get used to life under its new coach, Tim Whitehead, and learn to focus on hockey again.
Getting focus back was no problem, as the Black Bears showed in their 8-0 rout of Moncton.
“The game was a good chance for us to work on executing what we’ve done in practice,” Whitehead said. “The first week of practice was obviously a difficult week for us. This week, we got a lot more done. The players were more focused. They were trying to execute what we’ve worked on in practice.”
Maine got lots of contributions Friday night from familiar faces, as well as new ones. Junior Tom Reimann, a forward for his first two seasons, made his debut on the blue line Friday night, but you wouldn’t have known by looking at the scoresheet. He scored a hat trick, with two goals coming on the power play.
“I was pleased with my offensive play,” Reimann said. “Something I didn’t do last year was capitalize on my chances. I did that Friday night. The offensive part of my game is there right now. I need to improve the defensive part of my game, but overall I think I played well.”
“He’s got good offensive instincts,” Whitehead said of Reimann. “As long as he continues to improve his defensive game, he’s going to be a great addition to the blue line.”
Senior forward Niko Dimitrakos also stepped up in a big way. He scored one goal on a breakaway, taking a a feed from Robert Liscak and faking sliding the puck under Moncton goalie Jonathan Pelletier after two dekes 7:20 into the second period to make the score 3-0. Dimitrakos had set up the previous two goals, one by Chris Heisten and one by Reimann in the first period.
“I felt the best I’ve felt in my Maine career,” Dimitrakos said of his effort. He shed ten percent of his body fat during the offseason, bringing him down to only eight percent. “I’m in good shape. I didn’t get tired. I had my jump. I felt great.”
Maine also got multiple-point efforts from Heisten (one goal, one assist), Liscak (two assists), Francis Nault (two assists) and freshman Ben Murphy (one goal, one assist).
Murphy was one of two freshmen to score for the Black Bears. Chad Anderson also tallied a goal in his debut.
Heisten opened the scoring at 4:24 of the first period on a rebound on the doorstep off of a Dimitrakos shot. Reimann scored his first of the game at 9:28 of the opening period after Dimitrakos made a move past a Moncton defenseman along the right wing boards, and fed a streaking Reimann, who buried it past Pelletier.
After the Dimitrakos goal, Reimann scored his second on the power play after his centering feed for Dimitrakos was knocked into the goal by a Moncton defenseman at 10:28. Anderson scored only 46 seconds later, off of a Liscak feed to the low slot. Murphy closed the scoring in the second frame when he found a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and roofed it over Pelletier with a snapshot at 16:06.
Michael Schutte netted one 13 seconds into the third on assists from Martin Kariya and freshman linemate John Ronan. Reimann completed his hat trick at 9:41 on the power play on a one-timer from his defensive partner, Paul Lynch.
Matt Yeats and Mike Morrison split time between the pipes for Maine, combining for the shutout. Yeats stopped 12 shots, while Morrison made nine saves. Pelletier made 37 saves in net for the Moncton Blue Eagles.
“Maine has a great hockey team,” Moncton coach Charles Bourgeois said. “They were fast. They were a step ahead of us all night. They play very well in transition. We thought that we might be able to exploit their young defensemen, but they were solid as well,” he said.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Whitehead said. “But there are things we need to tighten up for next weekend. We need to be better in the defensive zone and use the wall more out of our zone, but the guys know what they need to do, and we’ll work on that this week.”
Maine will host the annual IceBreaker Cup tournament next weekend at Alfond Arena. St. Cloud and Clarkson will play in the opening game on Friday at 4 p.m., while Maine will take on Bowling Green, Shawn Walsh’s alma mater, in the nightcap at 7. The consolation and championship games will be on Saturday.