The University of Maine’s nine-game unbeaten streak came to a screeching halt this past weekend in road losses to Boston College (6-1) and Providence (3-2), respectively.
The Black Bears don’t have any Hockey East games until they travel to Vermont for a two-game set on Jan. 29-30 but they do have a pair of exhibition games in between, including tonight’s makeup game against defending Canadian national champ New Brunswick at 7.
Maine will host the U.S. National Team Development Program’s Under-18 club on Saturday night at 7.
Coach Gardiner MacDougall’s Varsity Reds, who also won a national title in 2007 and were second in 2008, are currently 19-0 in Atlantic University Sport, which is a school record for consecutive wins.
They are 29-1 overall, including exhibitions and are 3-0 against Hockey East teams. The Varsity Reds’ only loss came to the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates 4-2.
The Black Bears view the exhibitions as valuable tests in preparation for their Hockey East stretch run.
“We know we’re a good team,” said sophomore right wing and leading scorer Gustav Nyquist. “We’ve had a good run so far. We have to come back with the effort we had in our previous weekends and refocus. We have two good exhibition games. We’ll be able to see some different guys and a lot of the guys who log a lot of ice time will probably get to rest a little bit. This will be good for the team.”
“We’ve got to get back to what we did when we were winning: hard work all the time, sticking to the game plan and being really committed to the team,” said junior defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen.
“New Brunswick will be a good challenge,” said sophomore defenseman Will O’Neill. “They’re loaded. They have a good team. They’ve got a lot of older and bigger guys. It will be a tough task for us.”
Canadian colleges don’t have any regulations forbidding players with previous professional hockey experience, including the three Major Junior Leagues, from playing in college.
The NCAA does forbid it.
“Hopefully, we’ll come out and play hard. We want to get back to where we left off [before last weekend],” said Maine sophomore left wing Brian Flynn.
Maine has scored just 10 goals in its last four games, including an empty-netter, and one of the problems has been the Bears’ inability to generate second-chance opportunities.
“We’ve got to take a page out of BC’s book and drive to the net a little more,” said Dimmen. “We haven’t had an urgency to score the past couple of games.”
Another problem last weekend was the fact the Bears fell behind in both games.
They surrendered the first five goals against BC and the first three against Providence. Maine didn’t score against Providence until the final 56 seconds.
Freshman Shawn Sirman and senior Dave Wilson will continue to get valuable experience while replacing injured starting goalie Scott Darling (sprained left knee).
The one who plays better in the exhibitions is likely to get the start at Vermont if Darling is still sidelined.