Fans and players celebrate after the UMaine men’s hockey team scored a power-play goal in its Hockey East quarterfinal victory against New Hampshire on Saturday in Orono. The team will earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament – its first appearance in 12 years – even if it fails to win the Hockey East tournament this weekend in Boston. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

ORONO — Wednesday morning, Jameson Treadwell prepared to board a plane in Bangor bound for Columbus, Ohio.

An Auburn native, Treadwell is a junior at the University of Maine and plays mellophone (essentially a marching band French horn, he says) in the school’s pep band. Treadwell and his bandmates were off to Columbus to support the women’s basketball team and perform at its NCAA first-round tournament game against Ohio State on Friday.

Some of Treadwell’s bandmates stayed behind, with the NCAA limiting the number of band members at a tournament game to 29, plus the director. Members of the pep band who aren’t going to Columbus have other plans, though. They’ll play at Boston’s TD Garden on Friday night, in support of the UMaine’s men’s ice hockey team when it plays Boston University in the Hockey East semifinals.

Splitting up the band so it can go to two postseason tournaments is a good problem to have. For the first time in 20 years, both the women’s basketball team and the men’s hockey team will compete in NCAA tournaments in the same season.

“There is absolutely an excitement on campus. It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time,” Treadwell said. “I’ve followed Maine sports my entire life. No one up here has gotten to experience success at this level. … The pep band, this is what we’ve joined for.”

Students, alumni and fans from around the state are reveling in this winter’s success for the Black Bears, which will come to a crescendo on Friday. At noon, the women’s basketball team will take on Ohio State on ESPN. At 7:30 p.m., the men’s hockey team will face BU in the Hockey East semifinals on NESN.


Under head coach Amy Vachon, an Augusta native and former Black Bear point guard, the women’s basketball team has been a perennial America East contender. While this is the team’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2019, Maine has reached the conference final in eight of the last nine seasons. Last week, Vachon earned her fifth America East Coach of the Year award, while senior guard Anne Simon was named conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

The men’s hockey team’s success this season is a throwback to its glory days. Between 1987 and 2012, the Black Bears played in the NCAA tournament 18 times, winning the national title in 1993 and 1999. Since hiring head coach Ben Barr in 2021, the program has seen a return to national prominence. Maine won seven games in Barr’s first season, earned 15 victories last season and currently has 23 wins. The team is ranked No. 7 in the national poll.

The UMaine women’s basketball team is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019 after winning the America East Conference championship game in Orono last Friday. They will play Ohio State at noon on Friday. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Students see the success of the women’s basketball and men’s hockey teams as a beacon of light in Orono’s long winter.

“Winter here can be very cold and dark, and we’re so isolated (in Orono),” said Michael Delorge, a senior from Saco and president of student government at UMaine. “It’s just like a bright spot. … The whole campus really rallies around it.”

Athletic Director Jude Killy, who has been on the job at UMaine for just over a year, traveled to Columbus with the women’s basketball team. He hopes the Black Bears win their game against Ohio State, ranked No. 7 in the latest AP poll, but Killy knew he had to plan ahead. In case they lose, he booked a flight from Columbus to Boston that would get him there in time for the hockey team’s conference semifinal on Friday night.

“Last year when I started, every team was bounced out early in the winter. We went from March 9 or 10, I don’t know the exact date, all the way to the end of March without a single home sporting event,” Killy said. “It was a really strange experience. I’m thrilled this year to be overbooked.”


While this season is the women’s basketball team’s first America East championship since 2019, the Black Bears are perennial contenders who regularly play before a packed house in the cozy “Pit” in Memorial Gymnasium, averaging 1,146 fans per home game. Last Friday’s conference championship win over Vermont drew a sellout crowd of 1,507 fans. Across the parking lot from the Pit, the men’s hockey team played in front of 11 sellout crowds of 5,043 fans in 17 home games at the Harold Alfond Sports Arena, drawing an average crowd of 4,981.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team played in front of 11 sellout crowds of 5,043 fans in 17 home games, and averaged 4,981 fans per game at Alfond Arena. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

When both teams played a game at Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena earlier this season, they drew large crowds. The women’s basketball team played in front of 5,983 fans when it took on Indiana and Gorham native Mackenzie Holmes on Nov. 30. When the men’s hockey team played Bentley at Cross Arena on Dec. 9, it drew 6,291 fans.

Playing in the pep band at home games for both teams, Treadwell, the mellophone player, has seen the support increase for both teams.

“One of the great things about Alfond (Arena) is, there’s always some level of energy, no matter how good the team is,” Treadwell said, “but nothing compares to how it’s been this year.”


This is the fifth time the Maine women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey teams are advancing to their respective national tournaments the same season – but the first time since 2004. While the 16-team men’s hockey field will not be announced until Sunday night’s selection show, Maine is ranked sixth in the PairWise standings, the guide used by the NCAA to determine seedings. The Black Bears will earn an at-large bid even if they fail to win the Hockey East tournament this weekend in Boston. It will be the hockey team’s first berth in the NCAAs since 2012.


Paige Allen, a senior from Mendon, Massachusetts, said she’s seen the success of the women’s basketball team and men’s hockey team as a rallying point for the student body. She’s proud that Vachon, the women’s head coach, and associate head coach Courtney England were members of All Maine Women, an honor society for UMaine seniors, when they were undergraduates playing on the women’s basketball team. Allen also is a member of All Maine Women.

“I’ve definitely seen a revival in the UMaine community with athletics,” said Allen, the vice president of financial affairs for student government. “We don’t have a super strong campus community in other areas, so it’s cool. You see people all around the state coming to support the teams.”

UMaine’s Anne Simon is a two-time America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

If you’ve been to a UMaine women’s basketball game in the Pit, you’ve likely seen Andy Brown. His seat is in the second row, behind the official scorer’s table. Brown is the guy in the curly blue wig, occasionally waving the Black Bears flag to pump fans up. Brown, who works in facilities management at UMaine, relishes his role as a hype man for the Black Bears, helping make the noisemaker that is the Pit even louder.

“Obviously, there’s some talent and some pretty good depth. As far as a team, they seem to click,” Brown said of the women’s basketball team. “I don’t know if they have enough to get past Ohio State, but you saw the Indiana game (Maine led the nationally ranked Hoosiers much of the game before losing, 67-59).

Shawn Bean, of Madison, purchased men’s hockey season tickets for the first time this season. Earlier this week, he renewed his two tickets for next season, and added two more. Bean and his wife, Lisa, attend games and sit in section Q, in the corner of Alfond Arena where the visiting team shoots at the net in the first and third periods. A longtime fan of Maine hockey, Bean said he felt that now, in Barr’s third season coaching the Black Bears, was the time to get season tickets.

“I had a gut feeling,” said Bean, who coaches varsity baseball at Madison Area Memorial High. “They’ve had growing pains, but a majority of the guys are freshmen and sophomores. They’re getting better.”


UMaine’s Josh Nadeau celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Bentley during a Dec. 9 game at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Delorge, the student government president, said his group was paying for a coach bus to bring students to the Hockey East semifinals in Boston, free of charge. The Center for Student Involvement teamed up with the athletic department to also provide a bus trip to Boston. That group organizes a semiannual trip to Boston for students, said James Psalidas, its director. This year, the trip happened to coincide with the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden.

“I think there’s a big buzz around (the teams),” Psalidas said. “It helps with multiple teams playing well.”

Killy said he’s heard from alumni from around the region echoing the support the teams have received on campus.

“One phrase I use a lot is, ‘Winning is fun.’ People like to have fun,” Killy said. “It’s ‘Let’s go Black Bears!’ or ‘Go blue!’ pretty much everywhere we go now. I think it’s an example of the great rallying point we can be and how we can galvanize our university and rally support around the state and New England.”

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