Maine has a storied history when it comes to hockey, undoubtedly its number-one sport. The Black Bears’ success is well-documented: two national championships (1993 and 1999), six Hockey East championships, and 17 NCAA tournament appearances.
Some of the finest players in the college game, as well as the NHL, have worn the Black Bear uniform: Paul and Steve Kariya, Jim Montgomery, Scott Pellerin, Chris Imes, Jean-Yves Roy, Garth Snow, Scott King, and Blair Allison. Paul Kariya and Pellerin won the Hobey Baker while Jim Leger won the Humanitarian Award.
However, as a program, Maine hockey is relatively new. The University first fielded a team for the 1922-23 season, which went 2-3 by splitting with Colby and Bates and losing to Bowdoin. The following season, they went 4-8. That was it as hockey did not return to the Orono campus until the 1977-78 season.
The Black Bears competed in ECAC Division II for the first two seasons (15-12 and 25-8-1) before moving into the ECAC’s Division I conference. There they stayed until moving to Hockey East for the 1984-85 season, the first coached by Shawn Walsh. They finished that season 12-29-1.
It took Walsh until his third season to produce a winning team at 24-16-2, losing in the Hockey East finals to Boston College, 4-2. Maine made its first NCAA appearance that year, losing to Michigan State (6-2 and 5-3) in the first round.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Many college hockey fans are only aware of the modern era of Massachusetts hockey. The main campus of the University of Massachusetts system started Division I hockey in 1993, joining Hockey East the following year.
However, many fans may not be aware that hockey has actually existed at UMass longer than at Maine, going back to the 1908-09 season when the team went 2-4, playing on the Campus Pond. They won their first two games against Springfield Tech, 2-0, and North. YMCA, 6-0. They then dropped their next four games to Springfield Tech, Amherst College, MIT, and Trinity. The latter three times they were shut out, making the second Springfield Tech game the only game of the season in which both teams scored.
They actually didn’t have a head coach until the 1917-18 season and that was Elton J. Mansell, the only coach in school history with a career winning record (.574).
As is typical of early college hockey programs, some of the teams they played were not colleges. They went 9-6-3 all time against non-collegiate opponents.
The school did not field a team during the latter part of the Depression and through the World War II-era years of 1939-47. They also did not play from 1951-53, during the Korean War.
When the NCAA split into divisions, UMass, like some of the other Division I schools that did not want to put an emphasis on hockey, such as Connecticut, played first in Division II and then Division III conferences. UMass won the 1971-72 ECAC Division II championship, beating St. Anselm, 5-3, Merrimack, 4-2, and the University of Buffalo, 8-1.
They competed in those playoffs three other years as they made the postseason four years in a row. The star of most of those years was Pat Keenan, who still holds the school records for goals (105) and points (180). And he only played for three years.
The coach during that era was Jack Canniff, who has the most victories in school history with 120. Current coach Don Cahoon is second with 101.
They began to fall on hard times after those successful teams of the early ’70s, eventually falling to 1-18-1 in 1978-79. After that season, the school dropped hockey until 1993.
Like their respective schools’ hockey history, UMass coach Don Cahoon has been involved in college hockey longer than Maine’s Tim Whitehead.
Whitehead played collegiate hockey at Hamilton, graduating in 1985. He started coaching at UMass-Lowell in 1996-97. He led them for five seasons, reaching the Hockey East semifinal round three times. He then took the job at Maine where he has accumulated a 154-68-26 record in six seasons, a Hockey East championship, and has twice played in the national championship game.
Cahoon played at Boston University, where he won back-to-back national championships in 1971 and 1972 in his junior and senior years.
He coached for three years at Norwich from 1979-82. Afterwards, he moved to Princeton for nine seasons where he led the Tigers to an ECAC championship and an NCAA appearance. He’s been at UMass since 2000-01, compiling a mark of 101-132-22 and the school’s first NCAA bid this year.
All Tournament Team
All members came from the final two teams. UMass had two representatives, forwards Matt Anderson and Kevin Jarman. Maine had the rest of the All-Tournament team with forward Michel Léveillé, defenders Mike Lundin and Bret Tyler, and goaltender Ben Bishop. Léveillé was named the Most Outstanding Player.