The winter season for University of Maine sports came to an end last night as the 11th-seeded Vermont Catamounts upset the 6th-seeded Black Bears 4-2 at The Alfond in the Opening Round of the Hockey East Playoffs.

Though a disappointing end to the year, you can't help but notice the progress made by the team in Year 2 under head coach Ben Barr. Maine more than doubled its win total from Barr's first season, improving from 7-22-4 to 15-16-5. For Maine, the team picked to finish at the bottom of Hockey East in the preseason poll, that eight win improvement was enough to jump halfway up the Hockey East standings.

Maine went 12-5-5 from Nov. 26 until the final series of the regular season, racking up wins over top-20 ranked UMass Lowell and Providence (2) in addition to sweeping the season series with Boston College. Though, the bitter taste of losing their last three games will hang around for a bit until the Black Bears return to the ice next fall.

A similar situation played out for Maine men's basketball in Year 1 under Chris Markwood. The Black Bears scored a non-conference win at Boston College, were over-.500 through their first 10 games of the season, and finished the year on a 7-4 clip over the final 11 conference games. Like hockey, the season ended abruptly and somewhat disappointingly in last weekend's 85-54 loss in the America East quarterfinals, albeit against a very good 25-win UMass Lowell squad.

Maine showed they could compete with just about anyone in the conference not named Vermont, en route to compiling the program's most wins and conference wins in a decade. Maine earned wins against Bryant, UMBC, Binghamton (2) and UMass Lowell. The latter two coming when the opponent was No. 1 in the Am. East standings.

It was an encouraging winter for two programs that appear to be heading in the right direction. Did the 2022-23 seasons reignite your passion for either program?

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