ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine’s struggling men’s hockey team could be without one of its best players this weekend when the Black Bears visit UMass-Lowell for a two-game series.
Sophomore center Stu Higgins missed most of the third period of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to New Hampshire due to a leg injury he sustained while blocking a shot.
“He suffered a severe bruise and had to have stitches,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “It doesn’t look good for the weekend but he’s a tough kid [and might be able to play].”
Whitehead said if he can’t play, it will be a significant loss.
“He plays in all situations, he’s one of our most consistent faceoff men and he’s a great shot blocker,” said Whitehead.
Higgins is tied for second on the team in scoring with a goal and two assists for the 1-8 Black Bears. He is also tied for second on the team in plus-minus at zero. A player receives a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the opponent scores one.
He is tied for third in shots on goal with 20.
Freshman Kyle Williams would take Higgins’ place in the lineup if he can’t play.
The Black Bears already have four players sidelined by injury: forwards John Parker (broken foot), Jon Swavely (torn quadriceps) and Kyle Beattie (concussion) along with forward-defenseman Billy Norman (sprained ankle).
Parker and Swavely are out until at least January; Norman will miss the UML series and Beattie is doubtful for the weekend.
One of the major problems for the Black Bears has been their penchant for falling behind.
Opponents have scored the game’s first goal in seven of Maine’s nine games.
Maine has led for only 53 minutes and 16 seconds in 540 total minutes and have trailed for 288:39.
“If we can score the first goal, it will give the team some confidence and we can stick to our defensive system,” said Whitehead. “We’ll be able to protect our goalies [better].”
Maine is currently 58th among 59 teams in goal production at 1.11 per game and has the 57th-ranked power play (2.3 percent).
The Black Bears are tied for 48th in scoring defense (3.33 gpg allowed) and 34th in penalty killing (81.2 percent). They are the 10th most penalized team (15.9 penalty minutes per game).