ORONO - Last week, the book officially closed on Ben Barr’s second season as Maine hockey’s head coach- a season really defined by growth.

"There was some growth of the team, growth of certain individuals as players," Barr said. "Most importantly there was some growth in what's okay and what's not okay in our program, and the standard that our players set this year."

After ending last year with just seven wins, and being picked to finish last in the Hockey East preseason poll this year, the Black Bears got to work trying to right the ship, and that process all began in the summer.

"Each student athlete on our team really committed to putting the work in," Barr said. "They all came here in July, on their own. That is first and foremost a really important step for us to take as a program and a school."

And one thing that summer session told Barr right away- this year, his guys are bought in, and with 16 new guys on the roster, that top to bottom commitment went a long way.

"As a coach, you can preach your values and your standards but even if you have two or three guys that aren’t bought in to it you’re in trouble," Barr said. "We didn't have that at all which was really refreshing and that's a credit to our leaders."

So from July on, the Black Bears as a unit worked to bring Maine hockey to what it once was- and that all starts with setting a standard.

"If we allow things to be okay, then they’re always going to be okay," Barr said. "But if we don't, and [if we] expect more and we develop our players and hold them to certain standards, some players are capable of way more than they even think they are. Then, maybe our team is capable of more than people think it is."

The result- heading into the last weekend of the regular season, Maine had a chance to finish as high as fourth in Hockey East. After losing both of their final regular season contests, Maine ended the season in sixth- hosting a play in game, and finishing on the wrong end of a tough battle with Vermont.

"I think you saw that a bit the last two weekends, we started doing some out of character things, which ended up with the puck in the back of our net which ended up with us losing three games in a row" Barr said. "But that's a great lesson for us just to [say], 'Hey, it still has to be a day by day thing.'"

But at the end of the day, its the wins and the losses that help teams grow. And that’s exactly how the Black Bears are looking at is as they gear up for next fall.

"Learning how to deal with having some expectations is really important, and you can’t learn how to deal with that until they’re actually there," Barr said. "You know, [it was a] tremendously disappointing end, but at the end of the day we’ll look back and be appreciative that we went through it."

Sports Director

Tyler Krusz joined the ABC7 and Fox 22 team in October of 2021 and is looking forward to telling all of our local athletes’ stories! Tyler, a native Rhode Islander, graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Political Science. During his time there, he enjoyed covering all of the D1 sports the University had to offer, including a few football games against the University of Maine! Tyler worked with the school’s radio station and newspaper, while interning with sports radio host Andy Gresh and the sports department at Fox Providence. After college, Tyler worked as a news anchor and a sports anchor for WBKB11 News in Alpena, Michigan and is excited to come back to New England -- just hours away from his family. When he’s not talking about sports, Tyler enjoys golfing and playing softball (because his baseball days have passed). He also loves to fish, cook, and spend time outdoors any way he can. Feel free to contact Tyler at tkrusz@wvii.com or follow him on Twitter @TylerKruszTV.

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