UMaine’s teams give fans reason for hope

Posted Jan. 07, 2010, at 9:56 p.m.

It wasn’t lost on the more cynical of University of Maine sports fans that one of the more successful evenings in recent Black Bear history came on the eve of a rare New Year’s Eve blue moon.

On Dec. 30, the men’s hockey, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams all won — and on the road, no less.

The hockey team defeated third-ranked Colorado College 3-2 in the final of the Florida Hockey Classic, the men’s basketball team defeated Columbia 65-59, and the women’s basketball team outscored Stephen F. Austin 87-84 at a tournament in San Antonio.

I can’t recall the last time such a convergence of success took place, but hopefully it won’t be another blue moon before it happens again.

According to The Associated Press, a full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, a second full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2.5 years. The previous blue moon was in May 2007, but the last New Year’s Eve blue moon was in 1990 — and the next one won’t come until 2028.

Hopefully, I’m not merely blinded by Monday’s men’s basketball victory over Boston College — when the Black Bears went to the ACC and conquered it, to steal a phrase — but astronomy aside there’s reason to hope Maine fans won’t have to wait another 19 years, or even 2.5 years, for a similar three-peat.

The men’s hockey team truly appears resurgent, unbeaten in eight matches heading into Saturday’s game against Merrimack.

The Black Bears are getting it done primarily on the defensive end. With the exception of a 6-6 tie with Princeton in the first round of the Florida Hockey Classic — Maine advanced to the championship match by winning a shootout — they’ve allowed just 10 goals in the other seven games of their current streak.

At 10-7-3, Maine is poised to top its win totals for the previous two seasons — 13-22-4 last winter, 13-18-3 in 2007-08 — and could threaten for its first winning campaign since 2006-07.

The men’s basketball team, buoyed by that last-second road win at BC, entered Thursday night’s challenging America East opener against Vermont with an 8-5 record.

That’s already two more victories than the Bears had just two seasons ago, and just one short of last winter’s nine wins.

There’s a potential emerging star in sophomore guard Gerald McLemore working in tandem with a blue-collar — not blue moon — lineup that includes Gardiner’s Sean McNally and Auburn’s Troy Barnies, and they’ve shown an ability to scratch out narrow wins. In seven games decided by six points or less, Maine is 6-1.

As for the Maine women, it’s been frustrating at times in recent games watching opponents rain down 3-pointers against the Black Bears’ matchup zone, but the team has become more competitive on a more regular basis, certainly a significant step in a positive direction.

Whether coach Cindy Blodgett can recruit a superstar to Orono to lead the way — much like Joanne Palombo-McCallie successfully recruited Blodgett in the mid-’90s to set the stage for the program’s glory days — remains to be seen, but recruiting more America East-caliber players will be the key to continued growth.

In the interim, the future is now for all three Maine teams as conference play heats up.

It’s been more than a blue moon since any of the teams have seriously contended for a title, and that may or may not be a realistic goal this winter.

But it would be nice for Maine fans if that were in the stars.

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