The Black Bears were elected last in the conference's coaches poll last week, coming off the heels of an 11-win season last year. While the team knows most preseason polls are indicative of seasons' past, one of Maine's veteran leaders thinks it will spur a fire in a Black Bears squad hungry to re-ignite passion in Orono.
"We're going to use it as fuel to the fire this year," senior forward Nolan Vesey said Thursday. "We're going to prove all those coaches wrong. We don't care what they think of us, and all that matters is how we feel in the locker room, and we're pretty confident."
How confident exactly?
"It just makes it more fun when we're laughing at the end," sophomore forward Mitchell Fossier said.
As a sophomore Fossier will help lead a group of 20 underclassmen this season, many of whom were part of a talented freshmen class last year. The sheer number of young guns competing for a job this season has created competition among the players, as they aim to prove they are worthy of ice time.
"I know personally, I love beating the guy next to me, especially if it's just my friend," Fossier said. "So it pushes us to all get better. We all love each other, but we all want to win. So it's for the best."
And those underclassmen will be tested by one another, but as head coach Red Gendron cautions, the high-caliber of play has to transfer to in-game situations.
"Bottom line is, every player has to keep getting better throughout his career," he said. "We expect a lot of out of those freshman. It was one of the most productive freshmen classes in the country last year. And we seem to think that this year's freshmen class has a similar amount of talent. And they're going to have to prove it out here. It's one thing for us to talk about it on local news at night, it's another thing they have to go out there and do the job.
The Black Bears will host Acadia University in an exhibition Sunday at 4 p.m. at Alfond Arena.