The dream season is over for the University of Maine hockey team. Before the Black Bears even got a chance to play a postseason game, the spread of the coronavirus wiped out the Hockey East tournament and the NCAA Tournament, both organizations announced Thursday.
While most would argue the move is the right one to keep people safe amongst the spreading virus, it’s truly a shame that these gritty Black Bears won’t have a shot to squeak into hockey’s version of March Madness.
Let’s be honest, with goaltender Jeremy Swayman between the pipes, the North Dakota’s and Minnesota-Duluth’s of the world probably didn’t want to see Maine in their bracket.
Swayman is arguably the best goaltender in the nation, and is a finalist for Hockey East Player of the Year, the league announced Thursday. Red Gendron is a Coach of the Year finalist, joining Mike Cavanaugh of UConn and Boston College’s Jerry York.
It’s too bad that the college hockey world won’t get a chance to see Swayman compete against the nation’s top teams on a national level. Had Maine had beaten UConn in its now-cancelled Hockey East quarterfinal series, the Black Bears would’ve had a good shot at an at-large NCAA Tourney spot.
It’s too bad for the rest of the Black Bears, who scrapped, clawed and overcame so many odds to get to host a league quarterfinal. Maine was picked to finish eighth in Hockey East in October. This team embodied the grit and determination of athletes who call Maine home.
It’s possible that Friday’s finale will be the last time we see Swayman in a Maine sweater. Don’t be surprise if he signs with the Boston Bruins this spring, and if the NHL and AHL resume play, he’s between the pipes in Providence. Tuukka Rask is on the back nine of his career, and the way Swayman has played this year, he’s ready to take the jump and let freshman Matt Theissen, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, take over the Alfond crease come the fall. It’s not impossible to rule out junior Eduards Tralmarks garnering NHL interest this spring as well. Don’t be surprised if he leaves too.
Even though the season ended in abrupt fashion, Maine should hold its heads high and be proud of what it accomplished. Maybe this is a message to the rest of the college hockey world this tradition-laden program is on its way back.
The Black Bears are young and talented on defense and have a solid recruiting class of forwards coming in. The smiles on the faces of the players as they skated around after beating a team they’d only beaten once in seven seasons to earn home-ice was unforgettable. It gave fans and media alike a flashback to the glory days.
It also shapes up to be an important year as Gendron will be in a contract year. Let’s see if he can string together consecutive good years.
If you need a hockey fix, “Miracle” is available on Disney Plus and “Out of the Woods” is on YouTube.
BY RYAN MCLAUGHLIN