Less than 24 hours after his University of New England hockey team lost its season opener by five goals on Friday night, Coach Brad Holt checked the crowd at the new Harold Alfond Forum. Nationally ranked Castleton State College had followed Skidmore College into Biddeford to play the Nor’easters.

Holt noted the empty seats Saturday. A full house is 900 and by his estimate there were about 150 fewer fans than the night before.

“Skidmore shellacked us,” said Holt. “It was embarrassing.”

That’s what made the next game so much sweeter. The University of New England beat Castleton 3-2 on Sam Vikich’s first career goal with 24 seconds left in overtime. It was UNE’s first win in its six-year history over an opponent ranked in the U.S. College Hockey Online.com Division III Top 15 poll. Castleton State outshot UNE, 40-26.

“It was a really great college hockey game,” said Holt. “Very evenly matched teams playing fun, excited, disciplined hockey. When I looked around again it seemed more and more people were coming. By the third period the building looked like it was full. There was a great buzz.”

Today’s world is lived at fast-forward speed. Holt has tried to build a hockey program that becomes less inconsistent with each passing season. Monday he had what he called a reality-check practice: long and hard. Afterward the players went into the weight room to lift.

“We’ve had a great period of hockey followed by two bad periods,” said Holt. “Or a great win followed by two bad losses. That comes with a new program but we’re working to be better than that.”

Moving out of the older Biddeford Ice Arena and into the Harold Alfond Forum was important. It gave the Nor’easters a true home. Playing at the Division III level, Holt worries less about players jumping to pro hockey.

Tyler Fleurent, the local kid from Biddeford High’s 2007 state championship team, is a senior forward and an assistant captain.

Fleurent helps bring familiarity and stability to a roster that includes players from throughout North America. Saturday night’s game-winning goal, which touched off a celebration, was scored by Vikich of Vancouver, B.C. Goalkeeper Ian Edwards of Linden, Mich., had 38 saves.

UNE plays in the very competitive ECAC East. It travels to Vermont to play St. Michael’s College on Friday and No. 3 Norwich University on Saturday.

BOWDOIN COLLEGE

The Polar Bears (11-3-3) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III women’s soccer tournament as the runners-up of the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Bowdoin faces Scranton (9-7-4) in Saturday’s opening round at 1:30 p.m. in a regional hosted by Ithaca College. The host Bombers will play UMass-Boston in the other first-round contest on Saturday. Winners will meet in the second round at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. …

The women’s volleyball team also got an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Polar Bears (26-4) travel to New London, Conn., for a regional at Connecticut College that begins on Friday against Emerson College (19-10). The second round is scheduled for Saturday afternoon and regional final for Sunday.

ST. JOSEPH’S COLLEGE

Senior middle blocker Sarah Hawkes (Pownal) was named to the All-Great Northeast Athletic Conference first team in women’s volleyball. Hawkes had a team-high and program-record 339 kills along with a .256 hitting percentage, 406 digs and 60 total blocks during her senior season. Hawkes is the only St. Joe’s player — and one of just four GNAC players — to have recorded career totals of 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs. She leaves the SJC program as the Monks’ all-time leader in kills (1,107), digs (1,229), solo blocks (146) and total blocks (261). …

Sophomore Amber Dostie (Standish) was named the GNAC Runner of the Year. Coach Ray Putnam, the former Lewiston High cross country and track coach, was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. Lauren Rabideau (Ballston Spa, N.Y.) was named GNAC Rookie of the Year. She is the third straight St. Joseph’s runner to win that award. Danielle Cusack (Portland) won in 2010 and Dostie won last year.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MAINE

Eight different players scored eight goals as the men’s hockey team opened its 2012-13 season with a loss to Castleton State and a win over Skidmore College last weekend. Coach Jeff Beaney has a young team which includes 14 freshman, including four goalkeepers. “It’s the most depth I’ve had, top to bottom,” said Beaney. He was able to alternate four lines, which always happened in his program. He used 24 different players in the two games. Freshman goalkeeper Josh Hillegas (Middleton, Wis.) stopped 29 shots in the 5-3 win over Skidmore on Saturday afternoon. …

Sophomore forward Mazen Aljari (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) has been named to the All-Little East Conference men’s soccer first team. Aljari was the Huskies’ leading scorer with 11 goals, including three game-winning goals. He was named the LEC Offensive Player of the Week during the final week of the regular season. In two seasons with the Huskies, Aljari has scored 15 goals, including six game winners, in 31 matches. Aljari has been personally responsible for 58 percent of the Huskies’ goals (15/26) over the last two seasons. “(Aljari) is an explosive player up top with great speed,” said Coach Mike Keller. “He has an ability to kick it into another gear when he gets into open space, and is an excellent finisher in the box.”

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com