ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team, fresh off a Florida College Classic championship, will play another topnotch opponent when Canadian national champion the University of New Brunswick visits the Alfond Arena tonight at 7.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said there is a possibility that the exhibition game will be postponed due to the pending snowstorm and, if so, it will be rescheduled for a later date in January.
He said the university intends to finalize a decision by 10 a.m. today and fans can check on the game’s status on the university’s www.goblackbears.com Web site.
The game will serve as an important test for the 10-7-2 Black Bears, who are 9-2-2 in their last 13 games and unbeaten in eight (6-0-2).
Maine and New Brunswick are 1-1-1 in their last three meetings.
“We’ve got to approach it like we would a regular-season game,” said Maine junior center Robby Dee. “If we don’t think it means anything, we won’t play up to our capabilities. We’ve got to go out there with the mindset that Hockey East points are up for grabs. If we do that, we should be fine.”
“It’s a game against a really good team and it will be a good measuring stick for us,” said Maine sophomore defenseman Ryan Hegarty. “… Even if we were playing Brewer Youth Hockey, we’d still want to win.”
“It will be good for us,” said Dee, who noted that if they weren’t playing this weekend, they would have had a week-and-a-half layoff before hosting Merrimack College in a Hockey East game next Saturday night.
Dee said UNB will have a lot of “older guys with a lot of experience. And I remember that they also have a good goalie.”
Players who play Major Junior Hockey in Canada are allowed to play for Canadian colleges, but that isn’t the case in the United States. Because Major Junior players receive financial stipends, they are deemed pros and are ineligible to play NCAA hockey.
UNB will also have players with professional experience.
Since it’s an exhibition game, Whitehead said his team will be allowed to dress a few extra players and he also intends to use backup goalies Shawn Sirman and Dave Wilson.
“It’s very important for both goalies to get in. They haven’t played in a long time, and it will be a real challenge for them to play against a quality opponent. We’re going to have to play great team defense,” said Whitehead.
He will insert freshmen right wing Kyle Beattie and defenseman Nick Pryor in the lineup. Beattie has played in eight games, Pryor in five.
“It will be a good opportunity for them to gain game experience,” said Whitehead.
He wants to see his team “sharpen up all aspects of our game, particularly our penalty-killing. They have a great power play.”
Maine allowed four power- play goals (in eight chances) in its 6-6 tie with Princeton on Tuesday night before winning the shootout but bounced back to blank Colorado College’s potent power play in the 3-2 championship-game victory. CC went 0-for-6.
Whitehead added that “we have developed a great rivalry” with UNB.
Coach Gardiner MacDougall’s Varsity Reds are 25-1 overall, including exhibitions and regular-season games, and that includes a 3-0 mark against Hockey East teams.