Defense sparking Bears

Posted Nov. 19, 2008, at 10:04 p.m.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team doesn’t have anybody among the nation’s top 50 scorers.

But the 6-3 Black Bears have been able to win five straight games behind their team defense, special teams and ability to score timely goals.

Maine has allowed only six goals in its winning streak. The Black Bears have also scored 10 special-teams goals compared to the opponents’ two. Maine is 8-for-30 on the power play (26.7 percent) compared to the opponents’ 2-for-26 showing (7.7 percent).

And the Bears have scored two shorthanded goals.

Maine has allowed 1.78 goals per game this season which is sixth best in the nation. Maine is also tied for 12th in penalty-killing at a 91.3 percent efficiency rate.

“If you look at our D [defense] corps, you knew that was going to be one of the areas we were going to be strong in,” said senior center Chris Hahn. “You combine that with [goalie Scott Darling’s] good play. We take pride in that. And our penalty kill has been good, too. That all contributes to that.”

Freshman Darling is third in the country in goals-against average (1.00) and save percentage (.961).

“Defense has been our main focus,” said sophomore center Tanner House. “Team defense comes first and we work from there. Obviously our goaltending has been good.”

Senior defenseman and co-captain Simon Danis-Pepin said team defense actually starts in the offensive zone.

“The forwards have been back-checking and we’ve had a third man high [in the offensive zone] all the time,” said Danis-Pepin. “That helps us keep our gaps really tight. And we’ve been able to keep most of the [opponents’] shots to the perimeter.”

When a team is able to keep a forechecker high in the offensive zone, that significantly reduces the opponents’ chances to generate an odd-man rush (i.e. 3-on-2, 2-on-1). It also enables the defensemen to step up on the opposing forwards before they’re able to generate a lot of speed through center ice.

If all three forwards get trapped deep in the offensive zone, that leaves a huge gap which forces the defensemen to retreat and creates a lot of open ice for the opposing forwards coming up the ice.

Newton, Dineen earn honors

University of Maine freshman forward Kelly Newton and sophomore midfielder Maire Dineen have been selected to the Division I All-Northeast Region teams.

Newton was a first-team selection and Dineen was a second-team choice.

Newton, the America East Rookie of the Year and first- team choice, led the Bears in scoring with nine goals and seven assists in 17 games.

Dineen, an All-America East first teamer, had three goals and five assists in 17 games and was also a key component in the Bears’ vastly improved defensive play over the second half of the season as they cut their goals allowed by nearly a goal per game.

Women’s hockey names captains

Senior center Vanessa Vani has been named the University of Maine women’s ice hockey captain.

Junior right wing Amy Stech and junior defenseman Lexie Hoffmeyer were named alternate captains.

All three were chosen soon after Sunday’s 5-3 win over No. 5 Boston College.

Vani is tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points on two goals and eight assists. Stech has five goals and an assist. Hoffmeyer has three goals and six assists.

lmahoney@bangordailynews.net

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