Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

USM hockey breaks new ice in 1998

Posted on February 23, 2016 in Sports
By USM Free Press

Archive Photo

By Erin Brown

The year 1998 was a big one for the beloved hockey programs at the University of Southern Maine. The USM women’s ice hockey team would make their ECAC Division III debut, after playing at the club level for a single year.

The 1997-98 season for the women’s club team proved that they were strong enough to compete with any Division III team, and that they were only getting stronger.

They finished that campaign with a record of 7-13-1 in their single club season while playing against a majority of ECAC Division III teams, and with twelve incoming freshman recruits joining the collegiate team for their inaugural season, the Huskies were going to be a strong competitor as a collegiate team.  

Current USM Athletic Director Al Bean reflects fondly on the many  benefits that came with adding the women’s ice hockey team to Southern Maine’s list of athletic teams: “Anytime you can add a new program that there is an interest in, it creates strong opportunities to engage students and athletes to make their experience better.”

Bean also spoke about how the new Division III women’s ice hockey team joined the university at the perfect time: “Women’s hockey everywhere has grown so much. The level of play and the level of interest in hockey has increased tremendously with female athletes, which has helped our program grow in the past couple of years.”   

The women’s team was not the only addition to the hockey program for the University of Southern Maine during that year. In the fall of 1998, the Huskies left behind their home ice of three seasons, Portland Ice Arena, when the university opened up the USM Ice Arena- a venue that houses the olympic-size ice surface that both USM’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams now call home.

Since then, the rink has also been used as home ice for twelve other local hockey teams, including high school teams, middle school teams, youth hockey and the Old Boots Men’s League.

With such a wide range of leagues and teams competing on the Huskies’ home ice, the program is stronger as a result.

BL Elfring, assistant director of media relations for the Southern Maine Huskies, believes having the rink on campus- and having so many different local teams using it as their home ice as well- is a way to get people on campus to see the arena and different entities USM has to offer.

The 1998-99 season was very promising for both men’s and women’s programs. Both teams brought in a combined twenty-four recruits from all around the country that were drawn to USM specifically to come and  play hockey.

The head coaches of the teams at the time were husband and wife, Jeff and Anne Beaney. The men’s ice hockey coach, Jeff Beaney, was very appreciative of the addition of his wife’s women’s team. He was very excited for the new facility and told the Free Press back in 1998: “It wouldn’t have happened without the women’s program also needing the facility.”

Eighteen seasons later, both programs continue to prosper at USM and are able to recruit student athletes from all over the country. The Ice Arena also keeps very busy providing access to local teams and organizations all year round.

So now, nearly 20 years after the establishment of the women’s hockey team and the opening of the Gorham campus ice arena, USM is a destination for hockey players at all levels of hockey in the state- up to and including college. Husky hockey has come a long way since the days of playing their home games at the Portland Ice Arena.

Now, with a women’s team and an arena of their own, the hockey program at USM has a bright future ahead of it. A lot has changed since the late 1990’s and, in this case, change is for the better.

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