University of Maine coach Ben Barr observes the team during men’s hockey practice on Sept. 20 at Alfond Arena In Orono. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

From Alfond Arena in Orono to the Alfond Athletics Center in Waterville.

While the names are similar, the University of Maine men’s hockey team will open its season Saturday with an exhibition “home” game in an unfamiliar venue. 

The Black Bears are set to meet Hockey East rival New Hampshire at 5 p.m. at Colby College.

The tuneup comes five days before the Black Bears play Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the season opener at Alfond Arena.

So why the exhibition game in Waterville?

“One of the things I think our program has done really well the last couple of years, and this predates me, but I know that ice hockey, for example, has done an exhibition or a practice here or there (in other locations),” said first-year UMaine athletic director Jude Killy. “The more we can do of those kinds of things and spread out over the course of the state just beyond the Orono or Bangor area, I think it’s positive for everybody.”


Indeed, UMaine has prioritized scheduling some of its sporting events in venues across the state. Killy, who became the school’s athletic director on Jan. 30, added that scheduling games outside of Orono or Bangor can help attract future students to the university.

The Maine women’s basketball team will face national power Indiana at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Nov. 30. The game will mark the return of Gorham native and All-American Mackenzie Holmes, the top player for the Hoosiers.

Furthermore, the Maine men’s and women’s hockey teams will play a doubleheader in Portland on Dec. 9. 

UMaine’s Lynden Breen, right, faces off against a teammate during a men’s hockey practice on Sept. 20 at the Alfond Arena In Orono. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The Maine women’s hockey team also played Providence at the Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn on Jan. 29, 2022. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Killy said. “We carry the flagship (program), and we don’t carry that tag lightly. We view it as our responsibility to try and support and connect to as much of the rest of the state as we can. It also helps bring business to this state. It’s really important for us that if we can try to get around the state or the greater New England area. We’re going to continue to try to do that, at least as it makes sense for our programs.”

Saturday’s exhibition game marks the Black Bears’ first appearance in the 1,796-seat rink, which opened in 2020. 


Ticket proceeds will be donated to the Alfond Youth & Community Center in Waterville. 

“For Colby College to allow the University of Maine to be there and host a big game, it’s going to be very exciting for many of our community members, family members and youth members to go get inspired,” said Ken Walsh, chief executive officer at the AYCC. “The kids are going to see some high caliber talent right here in Waterville.”

The Black Bears finished 15-16-5 last season, which ended with a 4-2 loss to Vermont in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament. 

UMaine men’s hockey players skate onto the ice as they began practice on Sept. 20 at the Alfond Arena In Orono. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Maine Coach Ben Barr said his team is eager to face new competition.

“We’ve been practicing since Aug. 28,” Barr said. “I think the guys (are ready to go). We’re not going to be perfect, and we’re always going to find things that we need to work on. But it will be nice to get some live game reps where we can see it (in game action) instead of against each other.”

Barr added he’s curious to see how his young roster with a heavy mix of freshmen and sophomores expected to see ample ice time.  


Of the 27 players on Maine’s roster, 18 are either freshmen or  sophomores. 

Senior forward and captain Lynden Breen, who scored 21 goals last year, is one of the team’s top returners. Forward Ben Poisson (9 goals, 17 assists last season) also returns. The team also features top incoming freshman Bradly Nadeau, who was selected in the first round, 30th overall, by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2023 National Hockey League draft.

“We like our depth on our team; we have more depth than we’ve had than any point since I’ve been here,” said Barr, who is in his third season as coach. “I think it’s going to be a tough lineup to make, which is a really good problem to have as a coach. Guys have to play well and deliver if they want to play, and with every successful team I’ve been around that’s how it works. I think we have a hard-working group.”

The Wildcats went 11-21-3 last season (6-15-3 in Hockey East), including two ties against Maine. 

“It’s always fun to play them,” Barr said. “A lot of times, exhibition games are what they are. There’s not a lot of fanfare around an exhibition game. But whenever there’s a game against UNH, for real or an exhibition, there’s always going to be some emotion to it. It’ll be a fun game. Both teams will have fun with it and it’ll be intense, even though it’s an exhibition game.”

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