Rarely has a hockey team drawn so much confidence from a pair of draws.

The University of Maine hockey team opened the season with competitive play against Michigan State and North Dakota last weekend and is taking that as a sign that a repeat of last winter is unlikely.

The Black Bears lost their first four games a year ago by a combined score of 16-5, en route to a 14-22-3 finish.

Maine is 0-0-2 after tying the Spartans 3-3 and North Dakota 1-1 while hosting the Ice Breaker tournament at the Cross Insurance Arena. North Dakota jumped in the national rankings from No. 4 to No. 1 this week. Maine “won” both games in shootouts, but those were for tournament purposes only and are not reflected in NCAA standings.

“We didn’t start off hot at all,” junior center Cam Brown said of last season. “It felt good getting shootout wins in front of a great crowd in Portland. I think it’s just huge for confidence in the locker room and for the team going into every weekend from here on out.

“I think we learned how good of a team we can be.”

Maine starts a three-game road trip at 7 p.m. Friday at Union College (1-0-1). The Black Bears meet the 2014 NCAA champions on their Schenectady, New York, rink again Saturday and then travel to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, on Tuesday. Union handed Maine two of those four opening losses last year in Orono.

“I know they’re a pretty physical, fast team, and we want to get revenge for last year,” Brown said of Union, whose opening-weekend victory was over Boston University.

Brown, a 5-foot-7 assistant captain for the Black Bears, had a goal and an assist in the Ice Breaker. He centered a line with junior Blaine Byron and freshman Dane Gibson in the opener.

Gibson was one of six Black Bears rookies who saw their first action last weekend. He acquitted himself well, putting three shots on goal, getting time on the power play, and even taking a pair of faceoffs against Michigan State, winning one. He also was whistled for two of Maine’s 11 penalties in that game.

“It was pretty overwhelming to play in front of that many people,” said Gibson, 21, who was accustomed to crowds of 300-500 while competing in the British Columbia Hockey League, which he led in assists last winter. Ice Breaker games drew 5,000.

“I was nervous, for sure. It took me a few shifts and maybe a period to get used to it and after that I think I was good. I was into it and kind of forgot about all the noise. It was a great experience.”

Gibson was one of nine freshmen to arrive in Orono in late July. He made the long flight east with fellow British Columbia native Justin Rai and felt immediately embraced by his new team. They even took a boat trip out to an island off Bar Harbor, which reminded Gibson of his home on Vancouver Island.

Gibson said Brown was one of the first Black Bears veterans he met, which eased his transition.

“He was a very easygoing guy. He was one of the first guys I looked up to. Any questions I asked, he had an answer,” said Gibson, a 6-2, 210-pound power forward.

Brown and Byron have been playing together for three years and have even roomed together. It showed on the ice. They combined for Maine’s lone goal in the tie with North Dakota on a play in which it looked as if Byron had a clean shot from the slot, but instead dumped it to Brown near the net.

It looked like a pass Brown would make. The Natick, Massachusetts, native sees the ice very well and tied for the team lead with 21 assists a year ago.

“I just like guys who can play fast and compete and make plays,” said Brown, the team’s speediest skater. “The faster we are I think the harder it is to play against us.

“(Gibson’s) willingness to learn and get better and get to know us is awesome. He wants to do whatever he can to get chemistry with us and play with us. I think he’s going to be a great player for us.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH