Maine hockey fans should be excited about freshmen class

It certainly seems like summer is flying on by, isn’t it?

The Red Sox are in the heat of a pennant race – it’s great to have baseball relevant in New England for the first time in a few years – and among that, there’s been talk about fall and winter sports as well, with NFL training camps heating up and college and professional hockey teams going back to work next month.

– Believe it or not, hockey season is closer than you think. Before we know it, the University of Maine’s nine-member freshmen class and the rest of the Black Bears will kick off preseason training, with the regular season set to start Oct. 7 against RPI at Alfond Arena.

On Thursday, SB Nation’s Jeff Cox’s Hockey East recruiting rankings had the Black Bears ranked sixth among the 12 Hockey East schools.

Only Boston University, Northeastern, Providence, Boston College and Notre Dame ranked ahead of Maine. All of those teams finished in the top half of the league last season, with the Huskies hoisting the Lamoriello Trophy.

It’s hard to put a lot of stock into recruiting rankings, but coach Red Gendron’s incoming group being ranked in the top half of the league is a small step in the right direction of the rebuilding of the program.

Come this fall, you’ll see a much improved offensive unit that should be exciting to watch. There’s nowhere to go but up for a Black Bear offense that ranked among the worst in Division I in most offensive categories last winter. Guys like Chase Pearson, Jake Pappalardo, Pat Shea and Mitch Fossier will certainly help and take pressure off veterans Nolan Vesey and Blaine Byron. Look for sophomore Brendan Robbins to keep improving.

Pat Holway and Oliver Herner are great additions to a blue line that will enter the season with question marks.

A step in the right direction for Maine this winter would be to host a Hockey East playoff series at the Alfond. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Bears will finish high enough in the standings for that to happen.

–  You’ve got to tip your cap to the Bronco-Hermon Senior League All-Stars, whose Senior League World Series run ended with a heartbreaking 7-6 semifinal loss to the Asia-Pacific champions from Melbourne, Australia on Thursday night.

It may not seem like it now, but the Maine District 3 champions should be very proud of what they accomplished. They were a couple outs away from taking on a team from Chicago in Saturday’s world championship game. Best of luck to the Aussies on Saturday.

– Saturday marks the 19th running of the TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race in Cape Elizabeth. It’s amazing to see how this race – which I’ve viewed from the perspective of running it and being in the media tent – has grown since its inception in 1998.

Maine natives Riley Masters (Bangor) and Ben True (North Yarmouth) will be among the men’s elite field weeks after competing in the Olympic trials. We’re lucky to have such an event in our home state.

– Like a lot of Patriots fans, I’m not worried in the least bit about Jimmy Garoppolo filling the void during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

Garoppolo has plenty of weapons in Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, along with a talented defense, by his side. All he has to do is take care of the ball. I’ll predict Brady will return to a 3-1 Patriots team when he takes the field in Cleveland in October.

– The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts meet in the annual Hall of Fame exhibition game on Sunday. We now have football every Sunday from now until February.

– I’m OK with the Red Sox not making any earth-shattering, trade deadline deals. Keeping talented guys like Yoan Mondaca and Andrew Benintendi, the latter of whom got his first major-league hit in Seattle on Wednesday, in the organization is better in the long run than giving them up for a Chris Sale or Rich Hill.

– For Maine high school athletes, next week marks the final week of summer vacation before preseason practices start on Aug. 15. For players and coaches, a new season always equates to a fresh start, and the embarkation of a new journey towards championship glory. For us writers, the “busy time” has officially returned.

Enjoy what’s left of the summer. Leaves will be falling before you know it.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.