It’s no mystery that if the University of Maine’s men’s hockey team is going to earn a home-ice berth for the Hockey East playoffs, one of the things the Black Bears will need is supplemental scoring.
Linemates Brian Flynn (5 goals, 10 assists), Spencer Abbott (5 and 9) and Joey Diamond (6 and 6) continue to lead the team in scoring but, slowly but surely, the 4-6-2 (3-5-1 in Hockey East) Black Bears are starting to get production from their other three lines.
Sophomore right wing Mark Anthoine had goals in consecutive games recently; freshman center Stu Higgins has two goals in his last four games and, in Saturday’s 4-3 win over Clarkson in Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center, Maine triumphed behind junior left wing Adam Shemansky’s two goals and a game-winning power-play goal by junior right wing Matt Mangene, who plays the point on the second power-play unit.
Shemansky and freshman right wing John Parker had goals in the 6-4 exhibition win over the United States National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad last Wednesday.
“We’ve talked about that a lot,” said senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill. “We want to take as much pressure off [Flynn, Abbott and Diamond] as we can so they can do things right all over the ice rather than stressing about scoring.”
Shemansky added, “It’s no secret we have a great first line, but if we want to be successful consistently, we need scoring from other areas.”
Shemansky, who now has 4 and 2, has been on a line with junior center Kyle Beattie (2 and 8) for all but two of the 12 games. They were also linemates a healthy portion of their first two seasons. Another junior, Mangene (2 and 6), was moved up to their line from defense for the second UMass Lowell game on Nov. 12 and was also with them for the 2-2 tie at UMass and victory over Clarkson.
“Our line has been playing pretty well but we just haven’t finished. We’ve been getting a lot of real good opportunities. Hopefully, we will,” said Shemansky.
“We’re pretty close [to erupting]. We’re getting a lot of chances. But it’s not good enough,” said Beattie. “We need to start scoring. We’re right there on the way. We’re glad we got one even-strength goal [against Clarkson]. Adam ended up with [one even-strength goal and one power-play goal] and Matt had one [power-play goal]. That’s good for them to get some goals.”
Shemansky said his two-goal game since Oct. 30, 2009 “felt good.”
“It definitely helps my confidence,” said Shemansky, who also plays on the power play.
“I need to pick it up a little more. Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for me.”
Beattie feels he has been playing well lately but has been a victim of “trying to do too much when things weren’t happening.”
“I talked to Coach [Tim Whitehead] about it,” said Beattie. “I can’t go out and try to score every shift. I’ve got to play simple and be good defensively. The goals will come from that.”
Shemansky and Beattie said having the speedy Mangene on a line with them has been a plus.
“You feel safe when he’s out there,” Beattie said. “If you don’t have anything, you just throw the puck to his side and he flies down the ice with it. It’s been good.”
Sullivan emerging in goal
Black Bear goaltender Dan Sullivan has won the starting job from fellow sophomore Martin Ouellette with his recent play.
He made 65 saves on 70 shots in the tie at UMass and win over Clarkson and, between those games, he also stopped 13 of 14 shots against the Under-18 team after relieving Ouellette, who gave up three goals on eight shots.
Sullivan said he has had better focus of late.
“I’m really trying to prepare [properly]. I treat each practice like it’s a try out,” said Sullivan. “I’ve tried to stay mentally focused. That’s a huge part of the game, especially for a goaltender. I just try to worry about one shot at a time. There can be crazy bounces. Pucks are going to go in. It’s basically how I respond and how the team responds [that is key]. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they don’t get another one.
“I feel I’ve been pretty consistent when it comes to not giving too many soft goals. Nobody likes to give up soft goals. When all the guys are trying so hard, it’s tough [when you give up a soft goal],” said Sullivan.
He said the goalies have been working on coming out further to close off more of the net to opposing shooters.
“The defense has done a great job clearing rebounds so we feel more comfortable coming out and cutting down the angles. I think we’ve definitely been stopping more first shots and if the rebounds are there, the defense is clearing them out,” said Sullivan.
Ouellette said he will be ready when he gets the call.
“I’ve got to focus in practice and work hard,” said Ouellette. “The next chance I get, I’ve got to take it and play better. I’m working on some small details to make my game better.”
The Black Bears will travel to Vermont for a two-game series this weekend.