ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine men’s hockey team has been starting to put more pucks in the net lately. After averaging a meager 1.52 goals per game through the first 23 games, the Black Bears have averaged 2.86 over their last seven.
One of the primary reasons has been the play of freshman center Devin Shore.
Shore has amassed at least one point in six of those seven games and is coming off a weekend in which he had a goal and four assists in the 3-3 overtime tie and 5-4 overtime loss to No. 13 Boston University.
He has a goal and eight assists in those seven games and is now tied for 22nd in the country among rookies in scoring with 18 points on 3 goals and 15 assists.
He is tied for third in points among Hockey East freshmen and tied for 10th in assists among all Hockey East players.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Ajax, Ontario, has also served as a catalyst on Maine’s resurgent power play. Maine is 7-for-26 on the power play over its last five games (26.9 percent) and Shore, who plays the point, has assisted on four of the seven goals.
“He’s one of the top freshmen in the league,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “He’s got good hands, good size, he gets around the rink well and he has a lot of poise.”
Shore said his recent scoring streak can be attributed to “my inner confidence.
“You have to believe in your abilities. But it’s tough to be consistently confident, especially if your team is struggling or you’re struggling personally. I don’t care who you are,” said the 18-year-old Shore.
The Black Bears are fighting for their Hockey East playoff lives, as they are currently in ninth place, one spot out of a playoff berth. They are 8-16-6 overall and 4-11-6 in Hockey East.
But they play a two-game series with a team directly ahead of them, UMass, in Amherst this weekend before hosting last-place Northeastern for two the following weekend.
They finish with a pair at New Hampshire.
Shore said being passionate about the sport is a key.
“I love going to the rink every day. I like having fun and making plays and that transfers from practices into the games. It also helps to have a bit of luck. When you’re getting the bounces, you roll with it and try to make the best of it,” said Shore.
He received a fortuitous bounce in Saturday’s game when Conor Riley’s rebound hit BU goalie Sean Maguire and sat in the crease, where Shore spied it and poked it home.
It ended a string of 12 games without a goal for Shore. It was a shorthanded goal that pulled Maine within 4-3 midway through the third period after the Black Bears had fallen behind 4-1.
“It was nice to get the monkey off my back especially in a key situation,” said Shore. “But it wasn’t just me scoring, it was the fact it pulled us back within one with 11 minutes left. It felt really good.”
“He has really improved. He’s a lot more confident with the puck. He has a big impact on a game,” said Providence College coach Nate Leaman. “He’s strong. I was worried about him when we played them.”
Shore said he is enjoying being on the point on the power play and said it is the first time in his career he has manned the point.
“It’s definitely not something I expected to happen,” said Shore. “I guess it was an experiment the coaches tried out with all the injuries and tough luck we’ve had healthwise.
“It’s been fun. I like making plays and I especially like having the puck on my stick,” Shore added. “With every game, I feel more comfortable back there. I always try to make the smartest plays with the puck whether I’m down low, in a five-on-five situation or on the point on the power play.”
“It was a gut feeling that he could handle [playing the point on the power play],” said Maine head coach Tim Whitehead. “He’s awfully young but he’s getting more and more comfortable there. He seems to have a good chemistry with Joey [Diamond] and Jake [Rutt] and they complement each other pretty well.”
Shore’s coaches have been trying to get him to shoot more and he is doing his best to oblige. He is third on the team in shots on goal with 64.
Whitehead said Shore is strong on the puck.
“When he gets in trouble, he’s able to protect the puck better than most. He shields it. He doesn’t expose it very often. As a result, he’s able to make that extra play and hang on to the puck an extra two or three seconds longer than other guys.”