ORONO — There was some soul-searching at the University of Maine after the Black Bear men's hockey team was thumped by Merrimack 7-1 on on Saturday night.
It was the type of lackluster performance that could signal another second-half collapse.
Maine has gone 15-32-2 after the Florida College Classic the past three seasons, costing them an NCAA tournament berth.
But Maine coach Tim Whitehead and his seniors are confident they will rebound and they aren't going to dwell on previous seasons.
"Every year is different," said Whitehead. "Right now, we're focusing on bouncing back from our Merrimack performance. I'm not looking any further than Friday night right now. We had a great practice today and now we have to sustain it."
He said his top players are fully aware they were outplayed by Merrimack's top players and expects them to respond this weekend when Maine, 9-6-4 overall and 6-4-2 in Hockey East, hosts Providence on Friday night and Boston College on Sunday night.
"They aren't working hard enough in practice or in games and they understand that. They'll be the first to admit it. We have a great group of guys," said Whitehead. "Our juniors and seniors need to lead by example and I'm very confident they'll do that. They were the best players on the ice in practice today and now they have to sustain it. That's what separates great teams from good or average teams."
"This is a new season. We have to get back to basics," said center and captain Tanner House. "We've got to take it more one day at a time. We know we have a good team but Hockey East is a tough league and if we aren't ready to go, it could be a rough second half.
"I believe in the team, we know we can do something special. We know we can make a good run. But we've got to be going (all-out)," added House.
House has often centered a line between Gustav Nyquist and Brian Flynn and all three are behind last year's pace and looking to pick up their scoring down the stretch. Nyquist had 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) after 19 games a year ago and has 23 (6 & 17) so far; House had 18 points (9 & 9) after 18 games and has 12 (5 & 7) and Flynn has 14 points (9 & 5) after notching 19 (5 & 14).
House has missed a game with a back injury. They also have had to contend with opponents' top checking lines.
"What it comes down to is for all of us to hold ourselves accountable," said defenseman Mike Banwell. "That's what some of us older guys have been talking about lately. We all need to be responsible for our own play.
"I know, historically, we haven't had great second halves but we've got to dig deep and make sure we change that," added Banwell.
"We've got to be mentally tough," said defenseman Josh Van Dyk. "Obviously, what we've done in the past is in our heads but we have to get past that. We've got to get on a (second-half) roll like BC (Boston College) does every year."
Defenseman and assistant captain Jeff Dimmen said "we have more talent and a lot more depth than we've had in the past.
"But, after the Christmas break, we forgot what made us successful in the first half," said Dimmen. "We've got to get back to those things: outworking teams, outskating teams and making the little plays like getting the puck in deep (into the offensive zone) and putting pressure on their defense. We've got to make it a hard game for (our opponents) to play. We've let our opponents have some easy games (lately)."
"We have a talented team but if you don't work hard, you aren't going to win games no matter how talented you are," said Banwell. "Merrimack beat us to the puck, outhit us and worked harder. We've got to dedicate ourselves to working harder. It's that simple."
Whitehead feels his team must play with more "grit and determination."
And he said he will be without his grittiest forward this weekend as sophomore right wing Joey Diamond suffered an "upper body injury."
Whitehead said there will be lineup changes and sophomore Matt Mangene could return to center after playing two games on defense.
Dimmen gets mixed review
Dimmen, who was playing in his first game since injuring his ankle at BC on Nov. 19, gave himself a mixed review.
"I thought I played all right. The offense came back pretty quickly but I made some mistakes defensively that resulted in odd-man rushes which hurt our team," said Dimmen. "All in all, it was nice to be back out there. But I expect more out of myself."
He said his ankle feels good.