ORONO – Maria Lewis’ goal is to continue to create a positive culture for the University of Maine women’s hockey program.

Lewis, the second-year coach of the Black Bears, helped construct the program’s turnaround last year. This year, the Black Bears want to build on their success and maintain the expectations the program set for itself.

“There’s going to be more of an understanding of what it takes to compete at a Division I level,” said Lewis, who played at Rochester Institute of Technology and was a volunteer assistant at Maine during the 1999-2000 season. “It’s having a firm belief that we can win.”

To build on that, Lewis said, there’s a simple strategy: “Keeping expectations high and making sure we don’t take shortcuts.”

Maine opened the season by beating Sacred Heart in a two-game series at Alfond Arena, 6-0 Friday and 8-1 Saturday. The Black Bears next play Oct. 7-8 at Quinnipiac. After two games Oct. 14-15 against Bemidji State, the Black Bears open their Hockey East schedule Oct. 21 at UConn.

Maine returns 11 of its 12 leading scorers from last season, including senior forward Myriam Croussette (14 goals, 12 assists), as well as junior goalie Brittany Ott (10-15-4, 2.49 goals-against average, .921 save percentage).

“We have more skill, we’re a faster team, but we also have to understand that this season, it’s another step on the ladder,” Lewis said.

Lewis is familiar with building successful programs. As an assistant at Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa., from 2000-06, Lewis helped the team reach the NCAA tournament in 2005 and 2006.

At North Dakota from 2007-10, Lewis was an assistant on a team that won four games in 2007-08 but began its turnaround. North Dakota earned its first NCAA tournament berth in 2011.

Now in her second year at Maine, Lewis is establishing the same foundation she helped build at Mercyhurst and North Dakota.

“It took some culture changes, good recruiting and, again, just high expectations,” Lewis said. “You have to have patience, but you have to continue to push and pressure your players.”

In her first season, the Black Bears were 12-17-5 overall and 6-12-3 in Hockey East, and qualified for the league playoffs for the first time since 2006.

RILEY MASTERS, a senior on the men’s cross country team, was named America East cross country performer of the week.

Masters, a Bangor High graduate, won the Minuteman Invitational on Sept. 17 at UMass. He won the 5-mile race in 21 minutes, 24.75 seconds, nearly five seconds ahead of Glarius Rop of American International (21:29.03). Maine placed fourth in the six-team meet with 79 points.

KELLY NEWTON, a senior forward on the field hockey team, was named ECAC Division I offensive player of the week.

Newton, a senior from Vancouver, British Columbia, had three goals and four assists in wins over Providence and Michigan State. Newton recently became Maine’s all-time leader in goals (50).

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

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