GORHAM — The University of New England is putting together another dynamite men’s hockey season.

The Nor’easters are ranked No. 8 in the national Division III polls.

When UNE skated onto the University of Southern Maine ice Saturday, it figured to be simply a tuneup for bigger games to come.

But the Huskies made matters difficult, taking a 3-0 first-period lead.

The Nor’easters tied it in the second, then broke away in the third for a 7-4 victory.

UNE was able to bus back to Biddeford with at 7-1 record and six-game winning streak. The Huskies dropped to 1-5-1.

“I was not happy with our first period,” UNE Coach Kevin Swallow said. “Give (USM) credit. They were very hungry and had us back on our heels. I don’t think we came ready to play and I let the guys know that. Very happy with how they responded.”

The Nor’easters scored three goals in the first nine minutes of the second period, then killed off a five-minute penalty. UNE scored four goals in the third.

Swallow, in his fourth season, has built a power. UNE returns much from its school-best team of last year, which finished 20-6-3 and reached the NCAA tournament before losing to Colby in the first round.

UNE began this season with a two-game split against Salve Regina, the Commonwealth Coast Conference favorite and runner-up in the 2018 NCAAs.

Since then the Nor’easters outscored opponents 32-5 over the next six games. Meanwhile, USM was averaging two goals a game, which made its 3-0 lead so unlikely.

“We came out flat and they came out buzzing,” said Brady Fleurent of UNE.

Fleurent, a senior from Biddeford and two-time All-American, again leads the team in scoring (six goals, 10 assists). He scored the go-ahead goal Saturday, 22 seconds into the third period with an assist from Ryan Bloom (five goals/10 assists). The third member of their line is senior Dylan Bengtson (three/five).

“The chemistry has always been there,” Fleurent said.

Still, this is a young team, with six sophomores and six freshmen on the ice Saturday, including a productive all-freshman line with players from New York, Michigan and California.

“Coach Swallow has a pretty good thing going,” said freshman forward Aaron Aragon (6/2) of Whittier, just east of Los Angeles. “I loved the (UNE) campus. It’s by the water, just like California.”

Aragon played junior hockey in New Hampshire and knew of UNE’s success. Winning has made recruiting easier.

“Obviously guys want to play for a winning team,” Swallow said. “The past couple years have definitely opened eyes, and now kids are interested in coming.”

Swallow has eight Mainers on the team, including four on the ice Saturday – Fleurent and defenseman Alden Weller (Falmouth), Jamey Zanca (Camden) and Neil Maietta (South Portland).

“I knew Coach Swallow was building a powerhouse and I wanted to be part of it,” said Maietta, a junior. “Being Top 10 in the country is very cool but we can’t let up. We saw that today.”

Fleurent said Saturday’s start was another lesson to be learned – just like last year’s first-round NCAA loss was a lesson to be remembered.

“With the team we have, the goals we have are very far,” he said. “Obviously we have to take it one game at a time, but I think we can go very far (into the postseason). Learning from our (NCAA) game last year, I think if we go back there, hopefully we can play our best hockey in March.”

NOTES: Tyler Seltenreich had two goals for UNE. Fleurent and Aragon also scored. … UNE is 5-1 in the CCC and plays at Nichols (5-1) on Friday … USM also plays Friday, at New England College. … Adam Withers scored twice for the Huskies.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH