The University of Maine women’s hockey team is looking forward to playing at The Colisee in Lewiston tonight as the Black Bears will take on Vermont in Hockey East action.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said junior center Jenna Ouellette. “It’s always nice to play at home. But it’ll be good to see a different Maine crowd. It’ll be a good experience having some new people supporting us.”
“It’s going to be a unique experience,” said senior goalie Genevieve Turgeon.
Maine coach Dan Lichterman explained that the idea was spawned last year.
“There were a couple of us down there running a clinic and we got to talking about it. We said ‘Why not look into playing a game down there?’ We wanted to play there or in Portland. We wanted to get out to the fans because, a lot of the time, it’s hard for them to get up to see us [in Orono].”
Lewiston has always been a rabid hockey town and it is currently the home of the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The game just so happens to coincide with this being the first season for schoolgirl varsity hockey under the umbrella of the Maine Principals’ Association.
“That’s good,” said Lichterman, a native of Minnesota where there are over 125 girls varsity hockey programs. “The bottom line is we need to get more young girls playing the sport in the state.”
He has already observed the growth of girls hockey in the state.
“We had our second Maine girls hockey day [clinic] before the Boston College game [in Orono] and we had nearly 100 girls,” said Lichterman. “Our girls held a skills competition that they participated in prior to the game and most of the girls stayed for the game, which was nice.”
He said the response in the Auburn-Lewiston area has been extremely positive.
“They’re excited to get some college hockey in the building,” said Lichterman.
He said a Lewiston-area youth hockey group is sponsoring the game, using it as a fund-raiser.
The Maine team will stay in Lewiston Tuesday night and hold a clinic for girls on Wednesday from 11:50-12:50.
The Maine women won’t have an opportunity to practice at The Colisee before they take the ice for Tuesday’s game but Lichterman isn’t concerned.
“The pucks are round and the goals are four [feet] by six,” said Lichterman. “The moral of the story is you still have to put the puck in the net more than they do.”
For Lichterman, playing at The Colisee will be somewhat of a family affair.
His father-in-law, Jim Cain, is the president of Firland Management, which bought the facility last summer.
Lichterman is married to Cain’s daughter, Shari.
After the clinic on Wednesday, the Bears will bus to Robert Morris University (Pa.) for a pair of 2:05 p.m. games on Friday and Saturday.
“It’ll be a pretty long trip but it’s always good for team bonding,” said Turgeon.
Stingy Bears seek more offense
The University of Maine men’s hockey team is now the fifth stingiest team in Division I, allowing just 1.64 goals per game.
And the Bears’ penalty-killing is rated eighth best at a 92.6 percent efficiency rate.
But the power play is in an 0-for-18 slump and coach Tim Whitehead is addressing the issue this week.
“We’re going to look at some new guys out there. We’re going to do some juggling,” said Whitehead, whose team didn’t get a shot on goal in four power play chances against Merrimack in Saturday’s 1-1 overtime tie.
“We haven’t been one-timing the puck and we haven’t been releasing the puck quickly enough,” said Whitehead. “So we struggle against teams like Merrimack that are good at blocking shots. We’ve got to get pucks to the net.”
Maine had 14 shots blocked by the Warriors on Saturday evening and Whitehead said their next opponent, Vermont, is another good shot-blocking team.
Maine will travel to Vermont for a Saturday night game.
Whitehead said he is extremely pleased with his team’s stellar defensive play.
Maine has allowed just 10- goals in its last eight games.
He also said he was impressed with the play of sophomore linemates Keif Orsini and Robby Dee, who had been healthy scratches the previous five games but teamed up on Orsini’s game-tying goal along with freshman defenseman Will O’Neill.
“Both of them played well,” said Whitehead.
Maine sophomore Jeff Dimmen, who leads the defensemen in goals with two, suffered a minor back injury when he was cross-checked Saturday and could be sidelined for the Vermont game according to Whitehead.