ORONO — The University of Maine hockey team finally found itself during a lost weekend in Vermont.

And that sums up how maddening the 2014-15 season was for the Black Bears, who finished 14-22-3 after being ousted from the Hockey East playoffs Sunday night with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Catamounts.

There were four losses to open the season, an eight-game skid that consumed most of November, five overtime heartbreaks and spotty goaltending throughout.

But suggest to Coach Red Gendron that his Black Bears regressed in his second year at the helm, and he implores you to look a little deeper.

Yes, Maine was 16-15-4 in 2013-14, but …

“I wouldn’t say we took a step backwards in anything other than the record,” Gendron said Tuesday. “I’m not pleased about it. We’re not going to start to get happy here until we’re positioned to win championships. We were a long way from that last year and we’re a long way away from that this year. But we have a good foundation.”

Maine went 10-10-2 after its holiday break. Winners of just one road game a year ago, the Black Bears triumphed four times on the road this year.

Gendron was heartened by the development of junior forward Will Merchant and sophomore defenseman Dan Renouf.

Six freshmen received extensive playing time and contributed, led by Nolan Vesey’s 23 points. Liam Pecararo added nine points in 25 games, but was scratched from the last nine after being suspended for a violation of team rules. Gendron said he expects Pecararo to return next season, and still believes he can be an elite college player.

Sophomores Cam Brown (28 points) and Blaine Byron (26) showed tremendous chemistry while playing on the same line for most of the season.

“When we stayed to our game plan, we got the outcome we wanted. Early on we weren’t solidified,” Byron said. “I thought that last weekend everyone was battling their hearts out. We were competing every game. Obviously it (stinks) because we didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

Maine lost its playoff opener, 4-2, against No. 17 Vermont. The Black Bears never trailed while taking Game 2, 4-2, then rallied from a two-goal deficit with a magnificent third period to force overtime in Game 3. Still, the Catamounts won 6 of 7 meetings with Maine this winter.

Major challenges remain. Four seniors graduated, including assistant captains Stu Higgins and Jake Rutt. On Tuesday, leading scorer Devin Shore left for a professional career in the Dallas Stars’ organization.

Two inexperienced goaltenders never found their footing, with sophomore Matt Morris and freshman Sean Romeo alternating duty right to the end. Morris took the loss Friday in Vermont; Romeo played the final two games.

Neither distinguished themselves this season, although each turned in one spectacular performance. Romeo turned aside 34 shots in a 4-2 victory over Boston College on Jan. 18. But he surrendered four goals in his next outing against New Hampshire, so Gendron turned to Morris for the second game of that series.

Morris responded with a scintillating 40-save shutout, then followed that with a poor play to yield an overtime goal to Connecticut in his next game.

It was the pattern of the season. The goalies struggled most just when it appeared they had become comfortable.

Romeo went 7-13-1 with a .902 save percentage; Morris was 6-9-2 and .905. For comparison, the goaltenders for the top three teams in Hockey East were: Matt O’Connor, Boston University (.927); Jon Gillies, Providence (.929); and Thatcher Demko, Boston College (.926).

It’s a significant gap that Maine will look to close next year, when competition at goalie will be open again, with the addition of 6-foot-5 Rob McGovern. He will replace Nik Nugnes, who never got into a game this year.

“I think we got some exceptional performances at different times during the season,” Gendron said, diplomatically, of his goaltenders. “Whatever inconsistencies there were are probably attributable to a lack of experience.”

In addition to McGovern, Maine will look to integrate forwards Justin Rai and Danny Perez, and defensemen Keith Muehlbauer, Robert Michel and Steve Cochran into its lineup.

The void in leadership is likely to be filled primarily by do-it-all forward Steven Swavely, who tied with Brown for second on the team with 28 points. Gendron has great trust in the senior-to-be.

“He’s tough as nails,” Gendron said. “He was a leader without (being a captain) this year. He is not afraid to hold his teammates accountable.”

Byron, for one, will be happy to follow Swavely’s lead.

“He plays center, wing, ‘D’ on the power play. If they asked him, he’d go in nets, too,” Byron said. “He’s willing to do whatever he’s asked for this team. Those are the guys you want leading the team.”