BOSTON – Brian Flynn believes the University of Maine men’s hockey program has rediscovered its place in the landscape of Division I college hockey.

“I think this is the kind of year that put Maine hockey back on the map,” said Flynn, a sophomore left wing. “We had a great run down the stretch and we got a lot of recognition nationally for the Boston College game.”

The Black Bears admitted they were stung by Saturday’s 7-6 overtime loss to Boston College in the Hockey East title game, with an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament on the line.

Now the Black Bears are thinking ahead to next season, when — barring transfers, dismissals, injuries or defections to the professional ranks — they could return the bulk of their team.

“Looking forward to next year, we shouldn’t lose too many guys, and we look to make a run with an older and more experienced team,” defenseman Jeff Dimmen said.

“We’ll be able to battle adversity a little more and we’ll know what it takes to make it to the national tournament.”

Tanner House, the team captain and one of five juniors on this year’s roster, agreed.

“We definitely want to build on that,” House said of Maine’s deep run in the Hockey East playoffs.

“Last year we had a late spurt, as well, against (Boston University) and we built off that this year. We made it that much further this year, and the guys returning definitely want to make it back, because (losing) stings real bad. We want to make it back next year.”

After back-to-back losing seasons, the Black Bears finished 19-17-3.

Maine had a nine-game unbeaten streak and returned to the national rankings for the first time since November 2007.

The Black Bears lost six of their final eight regular-season games, however, and the late struggles hindered their chances of getting an at-large bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament.

 

IN ADDITION to five juniors, this year’s roster had nine freshmen and nine sophomores, including right wing Gustav Nyquist, the nation’s leading scorer and a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top player in Division I hockey.

The Detroit Red Wings hold Nyquist’s professional rights, but Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said he expects Nyquist to return for a third season.

“As far as I know, he’s coming back,” Whitehead said. “We haven’t talked yet, and the guys are off for a couple weeks, but we expect all our returning players to come back next year. The guys are really excited about next season and Gustav will be a big part of that.”

Maine had only four seniors: right wing Kevin Swallow, center David deKastrozza, forward/defenseman Brett Carriere and goalie Dave Wilson, who stepped in during the Hockey East playoffs to lead Maine to the title game.

Sophomore goalie Scott Darling remains indefinitely suspended for violating team rules.

 

MAINE IS in the process of formulating its schedule for next season.

The Black Bears will travel to East Lansing, Mich., to play two games against Michigan State and will host two games against North Dakota.

They’ll also make their annual trip to the Florida College Classic in December, joining a stacked field that includes Cornell, St. Cloud State and Miami, all of which qualified for the NCAA tournament.

 

THE BLACK BEARS expect to add five freshmen in the fall: Lewiston native Mark Anthoine, a forward who has 22 goals and 23 assists this season with two teams in the USHL; forward Jon Swavely (25 goals, 45 assists with New Jersey of the Eastern Junior Hockey League); center Carlos Amestoy (25 goals, 29 assists with the Toronto Junior Canadiens of the Ontario Junior A League); center Stuart Higgins (six goals, seven assists for Youngstown of the USHL); and Kelen Corkum, the son of assistant coach Bob Corkum. Corkum would have been part of this year’s freshman class, but he was unable to play because of post-concussion symptoms.

 

THE DISAPPOINTMENT of not making the NCAA tournament was palpable for the Black Bears.

Still, returning to the Hockey East title game for the first time since 2004 was a byproduct of what Whitehead believes is a change in the attitude of the program.

“The culture of the team is back where we wanted it,” Whitehead said.

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]