By Mike Zhe
Heading into a new season, like many in his fraternity, Southern Maine coach Jeff Beaney had reasons for optimism and he had reasons for concern, and the opening weekend of play illustrated them pretty clearly.
The Huskies, a final four team in the ECAC East last season that is returning practically all its players from a year ago, fell to No. 11 Castleton State, 7-3, on Friday, before bouncing back a day later to beat Skidmore, 5-3.
Good depth? Yes. Goal-scoring ability? Check.
Goaltending? A work in progress.
The Huskies only lost one player to graduation – forward Dan Rautenberg (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) -- but absorbed a big void in net when No. 1 goalie Braely Torris transferred to Neumann, a move that surprised Beaney.
The Huskies have four goalies on their roster, all of them freshmen. Patrick Farrington (Sandwich, Mass.) got the first crack at it against Castleton, while Josh Hillegas was in net and made 29 saves in Saturday’s win.
“We’re going to be a little unproven in net,” said Beaney.
The Huskies were only picked to finish eighth of 10 teams in the ECAC East in the preseason coaches’ poll, but in the minds of some league coaches are part of that middle tier of teams after Norwich and Castleton, with Babson, UMass-Boston, Skidmore and New England College.
It will fall to players like senior captain David Nies (Brookline, Mass.), senior defenseman Jon Grandinetti, junior alternate captains Troy Thibodeau (Danvers, Mass.) and Jamie Osborne, and sophomore forward Ryan Seward to keep things moving forward until the goaltending is resolved. Seward was named Rookie of the Year in the ECAC East last year.
“We’re looking for big things from him,” said Beaney.
Forward Garrett White (Wakefield, Mass.) and defenseman Alex Pompeo (Hingham, Mass.), who are coming off big years with the South Shore Kings and Bridgton Academy, respectively, are two freshmen who could make an immediate impact. White has a team-high three assists so far.
There’s no easing into the schedule for Southern Maine, which plays No. 2 Norwich on Friday during a Vermont swing. It’s also got games against in-state NESCAC foes Colby and Bowdoin before the holiday break.
Game of the Week
UMass-Dartmouth at UMass-Boston, Saturday
Travis Daniel, Mike DeGrazia and Kit Sitterley each scored two goals during an opening weekend that saw the Beacons win, 4-1, at New England College before letting a late two-goal lead slip away in a 5-4 overtime loss at St. Anselm.
Senior defenseman Rob Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.) had three assists for UMB, which is 1-1-0.
It’s the opening weekend for UMD, which was picked to finish third in the MASCAC in the preseason coaches’ poll.