ORONO, Maine — Something will have to give today at 1 p.m. when the University of Maine field hockey team, ranked 25th in the country, hosts defending America East champion Albany, the nation’s 19th-rated team.
The 9-3 Black Bears have scored 54 goals while the Great Danes have surrendered just seven goals while going 8-3.
The Great Danes have won the last three regular-season meetings, but Maine beat them 1-0 in the 2006 AE semifinals.
“They’re a very good defensive team,” said Maine coach Josette Babineau. “They’re very disciplined in the defensive 25 [yards]. They get a lot of people in their [defensive] circle and play more of a zonal type of defense.”
“Their style of play is different than ours. We rely more on transition play to create our attack and they’re more of a controlled, ball-possession type of team,” added Babineau.
“They work a lot on holding the [midfield], so we’re going to try a couple different tactics to get into their D [defense],” said Maine sophomore forward Kelly Newton, who leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 7 assists for 35 points.
“They’re very good, but at the same time, we’re even better this year. We’ve improved a lot,” said sophomore forward Stephanie Gardiner, the team’s third-leading scorer with 9 & 8 for 26 points.
Jocelyn Mitchell (15 & 3) is Maine’s No. 2 scorer.
After a 6-3 win over preseason league favorite New Hampshire, a Black Bear triumph over Albany, which was picked to finish third, could move the Bears a big step closer to hosting the tournament. The top seed hosts the tourney.
Maine was picked fourth.
“This is a very important game for us,” said Gardiner. “We definitely want to host the tournament.”
Maine will host 4-6 Brown University on Sunday at 1.
Union coach recalls NCAA title
Union College hockey coach Nate Leaman’s first college coaching job was as a graduate assistant at the University of Maine during its NCAA championship season in 1998-99.
That team had a reunion on Cape Cod this summer and Leaman said he enjoyed renewing acquaintances.
“It was pretty special seeing those guys. It brought those feelings back,” said Leaman. “They’re great guys.”
Leaman said the thing he will remember most is the coaching of the late Shawn Walsh and assistant coach Grant Standbrook. And it left a lasting imprint on his coaching style.
“I’ll always remember Shawn’s enthusiasm, the energy he brought to each practice and how detailed he was. He also held the players to high standards,” said Leaman, who is in his seventh year at Union and has led the Dutchmen to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since they moved to Division I during the 1991-92 season.
“Grant had a tremendous knowledge of the game,” said Leaman, who added that Standbrook did an exemplary job working with players one-on-one.