It is 7:15 a.m. and members of the University of Maine women’s hockey team tug on a series of doors to get into Alfond Arena for practice.
They discover that there is just one door open.
Such is the life of a women’s hockey player.
They sometimes play games at odd times — last weekend’s games against Vermont began at 2 p.m. on Friday and Saturday — due to the demands on the Alfond Arena facility.
They share it with the men’s hockey team, both basketball teams and some high school hockey teams.
Their games will be played in front of 200-800 fans in arenas that seat anywhere from 3,500 to 8,000.
But they don’t seem to mind, especially these days.
They are currently riding a six-game unbeaten streak (3-0-3), the longest since a seven-gamer from Nov. 3-Nov. 25, 2006.
Their record in the previous two seasons was 9-50-8, 5-30-7 in Hockey East play.
They are currently 5-9-5 and 3-5-3, respectively.
It has been a long road for the Maine women, but they finally have something to smile about and build upon.
“We’ve been waiting for this for quite some time,” said senior left winger and captain Amy Stech. “Things are starting to click now. We’ve always been a hard-working team, but we want to win more than ever now. We don’t give up if we fall behind. We fight even hard to get back into the game.”
“We’re having a lot of fun, and we’re playing well as a team,” said senior center and leading scorer Jenna Ouellette. “When we were losing, it was horrible. It wasn’t fun. Now even practices are going better.”
Three of the catalysts behind Maine’s resurgence have been Ouellette, senior defenseman Lexie Hoffmeyer and freshman goalie Brittany Ott.
Ouellette, whose 22 points on seven goals and 15 assists are four more than her previous season high, has three goals and six assists in the six-game unbeaten streak. That includes two game-winning goals, a game-winning assist and a game-tying assist.
Hoffmeyer has a goal and six assists in the streak and logs a ton of minutes on the blue line. She is an exceptional skater who is valuable in all situations.
Ott has a 1.16 goals-against average, a .960 save percentage and two shutouts while playing in five of the six games during the unbeaten stretch.
“Brittany has been awesome,” said Ouellette.
Ott doesn’t have a distinct style, but that’s by design.
“I don’t have a butterfly style or a standup style. I just get there when I need to,” explained Ott. “The team has been playing well in front of me.”
Ouellette credited linemates Taryn Peacock and Dawn Sullivan for her points surge.
“We’ve been clicking. They’ve been putting the puck in the net,” said Ouellette.
“We have a good chemistry. We read off each other well,” said Peacock. “Jenna’s having a great season.”
Ouellette said the team has established some scoring depth in recent weeks.
“We used to have trouble getting shots on net. Now we’re getting 25-30 shots per game. We used to be lucky to get 20. We finally have some goal scorers,” said Ouellette.
Maine is averaging 27.2 shots on goal after averaging 22.6 a year ago and 21.3 two years ago.
It is nice to see the program turning around under third-year coach Dan Lichterman. There’s still a ways to go to catch up to teams like New Hampshire, but at least they’re headed in the right direction.
Now if they could only get a key to their arena.