ORONO, Maine — It was anticipated that the University of Maine’s men’s hockey team was going to struggle to score goals this season after losing four of its top five point-producers from a year ago.
But after dropping two games during the weekend, the Black Bears are 1-4 and have scored only six goals in five games, four of those coming in their only win, a 4-3 decision over an Army team that went 4-23-7 a year ago.
The six goals in five games represents the worst start in school history. The previous low was eight during the 2008-2009 season.
Maine has outshot its opponents in its four losses, 121-94, but has been outscored 13-2.
In the 2-1 loss to Quinnipiac on Oct. 6 and 5-0 and 5-1 losses to St. Lawrence during the weekend, the Bears had a combined 99-60 edge in shots on goal, an average of 13 more per game.
Maine is also 0-for-26 on the power play. In the previous 10 seasons, Maine scored at least two power-play goals through its first five games.
Injuries have played a role, but Maine coach Tim Whitehead isn’t using that as an excuse.
“Injuries have been a factor, but there’s no reason we can’t score more goals regardless of who’s in the lineup,” said Whitehead. “We’ve got to keep working at it. We’ve certainly generated enough chances. We had 67 shots in two games this past weekend ,so we should have created more than one goal.”
Senior center Kyle Beattie, the second-leading returning scorer off last year’s team with 27 points (6 goals, 21 assists) in 40 games, has played in just two games and in one period of another after suffering a concussion.
Beattie is one of just four Black Bears with more than 10 career goals. He has 13. Senior right wing Joey Diamond has 46, senior left wing Adam Shemansky has 22 and junior right wing Mark Anthoine has 14.
Beattie won’t play this weekend when Maine opens its Hockey East schedule with a two-game set at Providence College.
Several other forwards have missed multiple games.
Sophomore right wing John Parker, one of their fastest skaters, broke his foot in a home accident just before coming to school and will sidelined until at least the end of January; junior right wing Jon Swavely missed the St. Lawrence series because of a torn quadricep that will sideline him until after Christmas; freshman left wing Ryan Lomberg (broken foot) missed the first three games,and sophomore RW Andrew Cerretani (sprained ankle) has played in just one game.
“We’ve just got to get to the net more,” said senior center Klas Leidermark. “We’ve got to control the net front. We’ve been soft [in front of the opponent’s net]. We’ve got to get second shots and rebounds and have the mentality that the puck is going to go in. We have to play with more desperation.”
Leidermark feels the goals will come.
“I’m confident this team will score more goals. We’ve got a young team, but a talented team,” said Leidermark.
Maine had six freshman and two sophomore forwards in the lineup Saturday night.
“We have to focus on battling, especially around the net,” said sophomore defenseman Jake Rutt. “We’ve got a lot of young guys, and they’re only going to get better. You won’t see another weekend when we score only one goal, and it comes from a defenseman.”
The Bears have run into some veteran goalies in Quinnipiac senior Eric Hartzell (31 saves), Notre Dame junior Steven Summerhays (22 saves) and St. Lawrence junior Matt Weninger (66 saves in two games).
“Sometimes you run into hot goalies. That’s just part of the game. But if you get to the front of the net, you’re bound to score. We have some great finishers on this team. You just haven’t seen it yet. It’ll come,” said sophomore right wing Connor Leen.
Senior defenseman Mike Cornell said part of the problem is a lack of confidence.
He explained that there has been a tendency to get rid of the puck, dump it into the offensive zone and try to regain possession.
“We have some skilled guys who can make plays. That’s why they ended up here in the first place. They’ve got to believe in their talents,” said Cornell.
Cornell said they should look to come up the ice with more speed and make plays off the rush or off transition created by forcing turnovers.
If they can’t create a chance off the rush, “We need to make better dump-in,” he added.
The power play will continue to be a work in progress.
“We certainly know what a good power play looks like, but we have a lot of work to do to get to that point,” said Whitehead, whose team had the nation’s second-best power-play percentage last year (26.7 percent).
“Unfortunately, it’s not an overnight fix. It doesn’t come easy in this game,” said Whitehead.