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What should we expect on the ice from UMaine?

Uncertainty has clouded the sports world, and everything else for that matter, as the United States still battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

A University of Maine hockey season would give the people of Maine a bright spot in what is expected to be a darker-than-usual winter in the midst of the pandemic.

Given what the Black Bears lost to graduation and the lure of the NHL, this is expected to be a subpar season for UMaine as coach Red Gendron's club was picked to finish ninth in the 11-team Hockey East.

That would leave the Black Bears out of the playoffs. And that's if the season manages to play out. Given the uptick in Covid cases throughout New England, that's a huge if, with the University of Vermont already suspending winter athletics until mid-December.

UMaine is scheduled to open the season with a two-game home series against Massachusetts.

There are more questions than answers on this UMaine team, and it starts with who is going to replace goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who signed with the Boston Bruins.

Without Swayman, you could argue the Bears, who finished fourth in Hockey East last season, the team's best finish since the 2011-12 campaign, would've been fortunate to qualify for the league playoffs.

The 2020 postseason was another casualty of Covid-19.

As for the goaltending duties, sophomore Matthew Thiessen, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, looms as the favorite to replace Swayman, although he saw action in just one game last year.

He'll battle freshmen Victor Ostman and Connor Androlewicz. Don't be shocked if Gendron splits them early in the season.

Eduards Tralmarks will have to become an offensive focal point for a unit that will likely struggle to score goals.

Fortunately, the Bears are experienced along the blue line, but the team seems to have too many questions in goal and up front to be a Hockey East contender this season.

Again, that's IF there is a season. Maine itself is seeing its own Covid rates spike. Hockey East and the NCAA want to find a way to complete and play this season, but the safety of the players is paramount.

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