ORONO, Maine — It certainly wasn’t the start they wanted.
But first-year University of Maine coach Red Gendron was philosophical about season-opening 3-1 and 5-2 losses over the weekend at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
“Listen, it’s going to be a work in progress. You know it, I know it,” said Gendron. “We aren’t going to fix this in a day.”
Gendron said there are “no excuses” for not winning.
“I don’t care if we’re playing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. I expect us to win,” said Gendron. “We need to expect that from ourselves.”
Gendron, his coaching staff and the players watched game videotape on the bus returning from St. Lawrence. Gendron did some one-on-one work with specific players while breaking down their play on tape.
“This group of kids has heart. They’re battling. They’re doing what they’re being asked to do. They aren’t quitting. That’s part of it. They’re off to a great start in that respect,” said Gendron.
Gendron said the priority this week will be to address the offense.
Maine was 57th among 59 teams in goal production a year ago and has scored just three goals on 61 shots over the weekend.
“We have to be better offensively and we’ll start with the power play. We have to be more effective on the power play,” said Gendron, whose team went 1-for-9 with the man advantage over the weekend.
In addition, he said “we have to be better finishing off plays. We had a lot of chances in the third period of Saturday’s game at St. Lawrence but we didn’t finish them off. We have to work on that.”
Maine outshot St. Lawrence 19-6 in the third period but got outscored 3-1.
The other point of emphasis will be defensive positioning. Mistakes led to the Saints’ game-winning and insurance goals, said Gendron.
“We have to do a better job making decisions and being in the right position defensively. We have to play intelligently. We made some big-time mistakes that allowed them to win the game,” said Gendron.
Gendron said the third period of Saturday’s game did have a positive side.
“Our players worked real hard in the fall to improve their conditioning,” he said. “Even though we went to just three lines [instead of four] in the third period, we were fit enough to dominate the period territorially.
“If you work your tail off and you’re fit, you give yourself a chance to win every night,” said Gendron.
But being fit, competitive and intense are just one part of the equation, he noted.
“You have to execute and play with poise and patience. You have to understand situations. This is another piece of the equation that they have to learn as a group,” said Gendron.
The Black Bears will practice on Sundays this season and take Mondays off.
Former Maine coach Tim Whitehead used to give the players Sundays off and they would practice on Mondays.
“The best thing about it is we lift [weights] on Sundays and we lift again on Tuesdays. We usually play on Fridays and Saturdays, so this gives them two days off without lifting [leading up to Friday games], so the soreness you get with lifting is gone,” explained Gendron. “If you lift on Mondays and Wednesdays, you can’t lift as hard on Wednesdays [to avoid soreness].”
The on-ice portion of Sunday’s practices are “more [up] tempo and skill-oriented. It’s about executing puck skills with speed. They don’t have to battle [contact] on Sundays.”
Gendron said this week’s practices will dictate the lineup for the Saturday night game (7:30) against a Bentley team (Mass.) from Atlantic Hockey that split at Nebraska-Omaha over the weekend, winning 6-4 and losing 4-2.