ORONO, Maine — With a four-game unbeaten streak behind them and final exams and the Christmas break ahead of them, the University of Maine’s men’s hockey team will try to earn some valuable Hockey East points when Boston University invades the Alfond Arena for a 7:30 p.m. game on Saturday.
Maine has three wins and a tie in its last four games and won’t play again until the Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla. on Dec. 29.
“It’s a huge game. A win would give us a huge momentum swing to carry over into the break. We would leave campus in good spirits,” said Maine sophomore goalie Dan Sullivan.
“It would be very important to go into the break with the confidence that goes with not being beaten [since a 4-3 loss to UMass Lowell on Nov. 12],” said senior left wing Theo Andersson. “Every point is huge [in Hockey East].”
Maine senior defenseman Ryan Hegarty and junior right wing-defenseman Matt Mangene said the Bears will hope to take advantage of the fact they haven’t played since last Saturday night while the Terriers beat New Hampshire 2-1 on Thursday night.
“We’ve been able to focus all of our energy on them while they had to play at New Hampshire Thursday,” said Hegarty. “Hopefully, they’ll come in a little cocky after their win.”
Mangene added, “We’ve been preparing for them all week and they’ll have just one day to look us over.”
Sullivan will be matched up against one of the nation’s best net minders in senior Kieran Millan.
“I remember watching him win a national championship [when Millan was a freshman],” said Sullivan. “I’m sure that was an unbelievable experience.
“He’s a great goalie. We’re going to have to throw everything we can at him,” said Sullivan. “We’ve got to get some traffic in front of him. It doesn’t matter how good you are. if you’re not able to see the puck, you’re going to have a hard time stopping it.”
Maine senior defenseman and co-captain Will O’Neill said the Bears have “found our game” and the first thing they will focus on is having a strong first period and “trying to sustain it.”
“We’d like to get the crowd into the game right off the bat with a couple of big hits or getting the puck on their net on the first shift,” said Hegarty.
O’Neill and Hegarty have a little extra motivation.
O’Neill’s father, Bill, played on BU’s 1978 NCAA championship team and Hegarty’s cousin Ned Havern played for BU’s heated rival Boston College.
“It was more nerve-wracking when I was younger,” said O’Neill. “Now it’s just another game. My dad played there and I’m proud that he played there.”
Hegarty said, “I grew up watching my cousin so I never really liked BU and that carried over.”
Mangene has been playing right wing on a line with fellow juniors Kyle Beattie and Adam Shemansky and said they need to start producing to take the pressure off the top line of Spencer Abbott-Brian Flynn-Joey Diamond.
“We know BU will try to take away [the production of] that line,” said Mangene. “So we’ve got to step up [and produce].”