ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team held a players-only meeting on Sunday to target what needs to be done to snap its four-game losing streak including 5-3 and 4-3 home losses to UMass Lowell over the weekend.
Maine will play again on Friday night at Amherst, Mass., in a Hockey East game against the surging UMass Minutemen.
The Black Bears would like to duplicate UMass’ recent turnaround as the Minutemen have won three in a row after starting the season 0-4-1.
Senior co-captains Will O’Neill and Brian Flynn and junior right wing Joey Diamond said the meeting was productive.
“We needed to re-evaluate why we’re here,” said Diamond. “This past weekend, it was totally unacceptable the way we came out. We didn’t play Maine hockey. We’re embarrassed. It is the lowest of the low for us.
“It’s a privilege to play here in front of the greatest fans in college hockey,” added Diamond. “You have to play hard and stay focused and we didn’t do either last weekend. It comes down to doing what the coaches ask of us, coming together as a team and buying in to what Maine hockey is all about.”
The team is confident it can turn its season around.
“We’re capable of doing better. We have to believe in ourselves, the systems and each other. We have to be determined and win loose pucks,” said Diamond.
“It was obviously a very tough weekend. It was something we never expected,” said defenseman O’Neill. “We know there’s still a lot of life in this team. Fortunately, it’s very early in the season so there is time to get this thing cranked up in the right direction.
“Everybody is looking for answers. Everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror and evaluate how he is bringing [his game] to the rink every day.
“It all comes down to being accountable. It’s unacceptable to be playing the way we are,” added O’Neill. “We have to be able to rely on one another. We have to be sharp [every shift]. If you have a bad shift, shake it off and be ready for the next shift.”
He said it is important for him and the other four seniors to lead the team out of this funk.
“I hold myself to a high standard and I’ve got to take it even higher. I’ve got to play better and lead the team in the right direction,” said O’Neill.
“It starts in practice,” said center Flynn. “We’ve got to work hard, keep our confidence up and keep plugging away. We need to work every day to get a little bit better in everything and, hopefully, we’ll put it all together. We’ve got to try to stay positive.”
Flynn said he has confidence in the team.
“We need to be more consistent,” he said.
And that consistency needs to be across the board because there hasn’t been just one problematic aspect of their game.
For example, Maine’s power play snapped out of a 1-for-19 drought with a 2-for-3 showing on Saturday night but the penalty-killing let them down as the Black Bears allowed three third-period power-play goals.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead pointed out that a number of Hockey East teams have gone through tough stretches already and have been able to rebound.
New Hampshire opened the season 0-4-1 but since has gone 4-0-1; UMass Lowell has won three straight after losing three in a row and Providence has won four in a row after going 0-3-1.
“We’ve just got to keep working one day at a time,” said Whitehead, whose Black Bears’ 3-6-1 start is the program’s worst since the 1985-86 team went 1-9.
Scarborough’s Rutt bright spot
One of the bright spots over the weekend was the play of Scarborough freshman defenseman Jacob Rutt, who made his Black Bear debut on Saturday night.
“He played a great game. He showed a lot of courage and assertiveness,” said Whitehead, who indicated that Rutt will be in the lineup on Friday night.
“We’ve all seen him in practice and we felt once he got his shot, he would shine,” said Diamond.
“He moved his feet really well and brought a physical presence,” said O’Neill. “He showed he belonged and gave us a lift.”
“It felt good to get out there,” said Rutt. “I just tried to keep it simple and bring my element to the game which is my size and strength and physical play. I just tried to move the puck to the forwards.”
He said he wasn’t nervous and that was evident in his play as he wasn’t tentative and made a couple of eye-opening rushes. He had four shots on goal which tied him for third most on the team.
“I took the approach I have nothing to lose,” said Rutt. “The team was struggling so there was no need to be tentative or nervous. I just played my game. It’s still hockey, no matter who you’re playing.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Rutt, who had 10 goals and 20 assists in 42 games for the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs in the Eastern Junior Hockey League last season, took a costly penalty that negated a power play late in the game but he said he learned from his mistake.
“I apologized to my teammates and coaches,” said Rutt. “It will never happen again. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. My emotions got the best of me. I didn’t know a penalty [on a UMass Lowell player] had been called. I just finished my check.”