Bears’ playoff chances look like best in years

Posted Jan. 01, 2010, at 9:59 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — For the six seniors on the University of Maine women’s hockey team, playing in the Hockey East Tournament would be a noteworthy accomplishment.

It hasn’t happened in their three previous seasons.

They are currently occupying the sixth and final playoff berth but just by one point over the Connecticut. And UConn has played two fewer games.

Maine will host the University of Moncton (New Brunswick) for a pair of 2 p.m. exhibition games Saturday and Sunday before playing its final 10 Hockey East games beginning with a Jan. 15 game against visiting Northeastern.

Maine is 6-10-5 overall, 3-5-3 in Hockey East, and that won’t change with the Moncton series since they are exhibitions.

The Black Bears are 4-3-1 in their last eight games.

Maine went 5-30-7 in Hockey East play in the previous two seasons and 5-14-2 in 2006-07.

“Making the playoffs has always been a goal for us,” said Maine senior left wing and captain Amy Stech. “This team is closer-knit than in any of my previous years here, and it’s making a huge difference. Our fourth line is just as important as our first line.

“We believe in ourselves and when we go out on the ice, we have a different attitude,” added Stech, referring to a more positive and confident mindset than in past years.

The Black Bears haven’t played since beating Union College 4-0 on Dec. 12, and Stech said the Moncton series will be “important to us” and serve as a valuable tuneup.

“And a lot of my teammates are Canadian and they have friends on the Moncton team. It will be fun,” said Stech.

Maine has 13 Canadians on the roster while the entire Moncton roster is comprised of players from the Maritime Provinces or the province of Quebec.

She said she and her mates are working hard on all aspects of the game and one of the major points of emphasis is winning the battles for the puck.

“We’ve got to want the puck a little bit more [than our opponents],” she said.

Stech was pleased to learn that senior center Jenna Ouellette was named the Hockey East Player of the Month after she notched five goals and four assists in four games last month.

“It’s awesome to see everything clicking for her,” said Stech. “She has been doing a great job.”

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