ORONO – It has been eight months, one week and five days since a UMaine team last competed against another school.
On Friday, UMaine women’s hockey will open up the 2020-21 season, hoping to carry the momentum from last season.
“Coming off of last year, everybody is hungry to go back to the Final Four. It’s an awesome experience and something we’re definitely striving for this year,” said Taylor Leech, senior captain for UMaine.
The Black Bears will head south down to Worcester, Mass. where they will take on the Holy Cross Crusaders to start the season. This year, they will be without goaltender Carly Jackson and forward Tereza Vanišová, who were both taken in the first round of the NWHL draft back in April.
“We knew with those seniors, they were going to play within a small range of like, there best is here, and there worst was right below that. It’s not a huge night-and-day difference, and I think that’s the hardest thing that we need to figure out,” said head coach Richard Reichenbach.
Last season, the Black Bears took home points in seven of its last eight regular season games and swept Boston University in the quarterfinals before falling to Northeastern in the Hockey East semifinal round. This year, the team has been practicing in some shape or form since October, and the takeaways have been positive.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s been the best experience working with players. There’s not a lot of bad days for anyone,” Reichenbach said.
The focus for the team has been on executing specific actions, be it attacking the net or making hard passes, to try and maximize performance on the day-to-day.
“I think we’ve come a long way with that, and I think the team has worked extremely hard to control the things that they can control so that when they go to the game…they’re ready,” Reichenbach said.
UMaine has 18 conference games scheduled, and 26 in total, but at this juncture, no schedule is set in stone.
“Everybody is excited to go to the rink this year in a way that I haven’t seen it before. Those hour, hour and a half that we get to spend together, everybody is so happy to be around each other,” Leech said.
UMaine’s game versus Holy Cross begins at 6 p.m. from the Hart Center Rink in Worcester, Mass. Friday’s game can be streamed for free on College Sports Live.