ORONO — The University of Maine hockey team might not yet be back among the ranks of the league’s best, but the Black Bears might be as close as they’ve been in years.

Competition notwithstanding in a 6-1 drubbing of the University of Prince Edward Island in an exhibition tuneup for the regular season Monday night, Maine looked confident in a number of areas. Junior Mitchell Fossier scored a pair of power-play goals as part of a three-point night, four players scored goals for the Black Bears and a small freshman class looked ready to make an impact.

With the season set to begin for real on Friday night with the first of a two-game weekend series with St. Lawrence, it was a welcome sight for the Black Bears.

“I liked what I saw tonight,” Fossier said. “We showed some skill, especially our freshmen … There’s certainly things we want to clean up. That’s to be expected with your first game of the season, but I liked what I saw. Overall, it was pretty good.”

It was better than good on special teams, which was important for a team whose average power play and below-average penalty kill hurt them at times in 2017-18.

Maine, which succeeded under than 20 percent of the time with the man advantage a year ago, was 4 for 7 on the power play against the Panthers and 3 for 3 on the penalty kill – a giant step forward for a team that ranked 53rd out of the nation’s 60 NCAA Division I teams last season.

After having 18 games decided by a goal or fewer last season, including a stretch of eight straight from Jan. 19-Feb. 14, the Black Bears will look for special teams improvement to turn those games into easier wins this season.

A huge amount of credit had to be given to freshman Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup’s impressive debut for Maine. Twice in the first 13 minutes against PEI, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Denmark whipped beautiful cross-ice passes to a waiting Fossier low in the right circle, and Fossier finished them both off to give Maine a 2-0 lead.

Schmidt-Svejstrup scored on the power play in the second period. Only four seconds after hitting the post he swatted home a Fossier feed with the Black Bears enjoying a two-man advantage. He added a second goal in the third.

“We had a lot of guys tonight make real good skill plays – good shots, finishing off good plays,” said Maine Coach Red Gendron. “But that was particularly good on the power play. We saw the plays that were there and made good passes so the guys could shoot the puck quickly. I think that was important to our success.”

“I had a lot of fun. I’ve been waiting to be here for quite a while, so I’m obviously very excited,” Schmidt-Svejstrup said. “I think there’s still work to do, and I obviously haven’t seen another (Division I) team yet, but I’m sure we’ll be able to compete, 100 percent.”

Nine players had at least a point in the win, including Alexsi Binner and Brady Keeper with two assists each as the top defensive pairing.

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