Maine seniors await home-ice finales

Posted Feb. 26, 2009, at 11:49 p.m.

The law of averages indicates that the University of Maine and their guests this weekend, the University of Vermont Catamounts, will play two close games. The Friday-Saturday night matchups will begin at 7, with Seniors Night on Saturday.

Vermont has played in 19 games decided by one goal or less (five overtime ties) while Maine has been involved in 18, including four overtime ties.

So the last five minutes of the third period could turn out to be pivotal and that has been a sore spot for the Black Bears.

In addition to allowing three overtime game-winners, Maine has surrendered eight goals in the last five minutes of regulation, including two game-winners and three more game-tying scores. Two have been insurance goals and another pulled Merrimack College within 3-2 before the Bears held on to win that game.

Maine has scored three goals in the last five minutes of regulation and two were game-winners. They haven’t scored in overtime.

Maine coach Tim Whitehead said the late third-period goals allowed by his team can be attributed to inexperience.

“That makes a big difference. That’s where our lack of experience shows up,” said Whitehead, who has been playing 12 to 14 freshmen and sophomores every night.

Sophomore center Tanner House concurred.

“It really comes down to [a lack of] experience,” said House. “The fact we’ve been in a lot of close games is a positive sign for us. If we can turn a couple of those around and build off that, we should be all right.”

“I’ve been on the ice and at fault for a few of them,” said senior center Chris Hahn. “I can’t put my finger [on the reason]. It’s not just bad luck because it keeps happening over and over. Maybe we squeeze our sticks in those situations. Everyone starts sitting back instead of making aggressive mistakes.”

Senior defenseman Matt Duffy it comes down to focus and concentration. “We’ve got to get numbers back and bubble around our goaltender,” he said. “We can’t allow them to get second shots. We’ve got to clear pucks away.”

Senior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin added, ”We have to focus a little more in those last minutes. We have to stick with the game plan and focus on what’s been working for us. We’ve got to be sharper.”

Danis-Pepin, Duffy, Hahn and senior right wing Jeff Marshall will play their last home games this weekend.

They went to Frozen Fours in their first two seasons but missed the Hockey East and NCAA playoffs last year and will probably finish eighth and qualify for the league playoffs this season.

Their four-year record stands at 76-61-11.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” said Hahn, who has 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points in 99 career games. “It has been a great four years. They’ve been four of the best years of my life.

“We’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum. We had a veteran team with a lot of really good players when we first got here and learned a lot from those guys. It was a good experience going to the Frozen Fours. The last few years, the onus has been on us. It has been challenging but we’ll be better for going through it,” Hahn added.

He considers playing at Alfond Arena every other weekend as the highlight of his career.

“To play in front of such a great crowd every other weekend has been pretty special for me,” said Hahn.

“I can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly,” said Duffy (128 games, 20-19-39). “It has been great. I’ve made a lot of good friendships and the coaching staff has really helped me improve. I’m glad I came here.”

Danis-Pepin (126 games, 6-26-32) came to Maine as a 17-year-old and said going to the Frozen Four in St. Louis his sophomore year was memorable.

“I was more involved as a sophomore than I was as a freshman. And [goalie] Ben Bishop was my roommate and with St. Louis being his hometown, that was a great moment for us,” said Danis-Pepin.

Marshall (81 games, 7-8-15) said “getting to play in a Frozen Four, let alone going back-to-back years, was definitely a highlight. And to play four years in front of the Alfond Arena fans at a place where the tradition runs so deep [is special].”

“They’re a great group and they’ve done a wonderful job,” said Whitehead. “They’ve improved themselves on and off the ice.”

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