The University of Maine men’s hockey team, winless in its last four games (0-3-1), will try to recapture its identity this weekend when it hosts Bentley University tonight at 7 and Providence College on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Maine had allowed 1.75 goals per game through its first 16 games, but during the current four-game skid, the Bears have surrendered 3.75.
“We’ve got to worry about keeping the puck out of our net first and then worry about scoring goals rather than the other way around,” said sophomore defenseman Jeff Dimmen.
“We have to get back to the identity we had the first half of the year, which is just outworking teams,” said Maine senior center-winger and co-captain Jeff Marshall. “We’ve been on a bit of a slide since Christmas because we’ve gotten away from that.”
Senior defenseman and co-captain Simon Danis-Pepin said the team hasn’t had its identity for “six or seven games.”
“We’re a team that has to work hard, battle and hit,” said Danis-Pepin.
Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Boston University was the low point of the season, according to Maine coach Tim Whitehead.
“That was the first time in a long time that I can remember us not getting out of the gate and working hard,” said Whitehead. “There’s no excuse for not working. That is unusual for our guys and I don’t expect it to happen again.”
“It better not,” Whitehead added.
“We have to get back to what brought us success in the fall: a commitment to team defense and discipline. It’s exciting that we’ve been generating more offense, but it hasn’t brought us any more wins because we’ve let down our guard on defense and taken penalties,” said Whitehead.
The Bears allowed just three power plays to BU, but part of the reason is they didn’t take the body.
“A big part of our game plan is to play physical without taking penalties. For the most part, we found that balance early in the season. It’s tough for a young team to do that on a consistent basis, but we’ve got to get back to that,” Whitehead said.
Marshall, who was benched for the loss to Boston University on Saturday, shouldered some of the blame himself.
“As seniors, maybe we haven’t done as good a job as we should have [leading the team],” said Marshall. “I blame myself for not keeping these guys focused. But we’ve addressed that and we’ve had a good week of practice.”
Marshall said his benching was justified.
“It was my own fault. I got a little complacent. It didn’t come as a big shock to me,” said Marshall. “It was a good reminder after the UNH game [a 5-4 loss]. I decided things had to change and they had to change right away.”
He indicated that the Bears need to regain the penalty-kill prowess they established early in the season “because that will enable us to be more aggressive.”
Maine has allowed five power-play goals in the last four games.
Danis-Pepin said penalties of aggression, in which a player lands a big hit, can lift the team.
“But we can’t take stick penalties or penalties from a lack of effort like not back-checking. Those kill you in the end,” said Danis-Pepin.
Senior center Chris Hahn said there is a simple solution.
“It comes down to every guy going out every shift and doing the things we’ve talked about,” said Hahn, who added that the lack of scoring from the second, third and fourth lines can be remedied by “getting to the net” and “getting our noses dirty” instead of playing on the perimeter.