ORONO – This fall, the University of Maine men’s hockey team has tangible and quantitative goals:

Return to the Hockey East tournament at TD Garden in Boston. Earn a berth in the NCAA tournament. Establish and maintain consistency throughout the season.

The emphasis for the Black Bears right now rests on the third point.

“That’s probably the biggest thing,” sophomore forward Joey Diamond said. “If we can stay consistent, we can do good things. That’s going to be a test for us.”

The Black Bears, who met with the media Thursday at Alfond Arena, had the program’s highest ranking in a preseason national poll in four years, as well as their highest Hockey East preseason ranking since 2007. They were No. 7 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine top 15 poll released earlier this week and No. 2 in the Hockey East coaches’ poll released Wednesday.

“It’s always nice for the media to recognize you and expect things out of you, but it doesn’t really mean much if we don’t come out and play,” senior defenseman Jeff Dimmen said. “I think our expectations are just to come in here and work hard from the start of the season.”

The polls only hold so much weight for the Black Bears, especially when a week still remains before the season opener Oct. 8 at Alfond Arena against Massachusetts Lowell.

“Obviously there’s more hype and hoorah surrounding the team because of how we finished last year,” junior defenseman Will O’Neill said. “We just hope to start how we finished.

“Winning games and losing games, that’s obviously what gets you into the tournament. But if we play in a way that we’re consistent every time we put on the jersey, then I think we have a good enough chance to win.”

The challenge for the Black Bears, team captain Tanner House said, is to work through all the attention the team has received before playing a minute in a regular-season game.

“The important part is that we’ve got to make sure we check the egos at the door and work together,” said House, a senior forward. “Hockey East is always strong and anyone can win. We have to make sure we’re ready and bringing a consistent effort every night.”

The Black Bears return five seniors and seven juniors, including Hobey Baker Award finalist Gustav Nyquist, the nation’s leading scorer last season. The team’s five leading scorers are back: Nyquist (19 goals, 42 assists), junior Brian Flynn (19-28), House (18-21), O’Neill (8-23) and Dimmen (12-18).

The Black Bears also return the nucleus of teams that reached the Hockey East tournament the past two seasons. In March, however, the Black Bears came within a goal of earning an NCAA tournament berth before losing to eventual national champion Boston College 7-6 in overtime of the conference final in Boston.

That fueled Maine’s momentum entering this season.

“Last year’s loss to BC stung quite a bit,” House said. “Now, we have to come together as a team right away, start jelling and working hard and get off to a good start. We have to make sure we’re not looking into the hype too much.

“We have to make sure we’re taking care of business every day, working hard and making sure we’re improving every week.”

NOTES: Coach Tim Whitehead said freshman goalie Martin Ouellette (ankle ), junior defenseman Ryan Hegarty (ankle) and sophomore forward Klas Leidermark (knee) will not play in Sunday’s exhibition against Acadia, and their playing status is questionable for next Friday’s home opener.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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