Maine hockey team will try to solve scoring woes against UMass

Posted Oct. 24, 2013, at 2:42 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Forget nostalgia.

The last thing University of Maine first-year men’s hockey coach Red Gendron is thinking about is renewing acquaintances with players he recruited and coached at the University of Massachusetts.

UMass and its nine-member senior class will invade the Alfond Arena for a two-game non-conference series with the Black Bears that will kick off a rare four-games-in-nine days set between the two Hockey East rivals.

They will also meet the following weekend in Amherst, Mass., to play a pair of league games, Maine’s first of the season.

Gendron has already coached against his former players last season when he was a second-year assistant at Yale. Yale beat UMass 4-2 in New Haven, Conn. on Dec. 11, 2012.

Before going to Yale and helping the Elis capture their first NCAA championship a year ago, he had spent the previous seven years as an assistant at UMass.

UMass is 2-2 after sweeping Michigan State while Maine is 1-2 after beating Bentley.

Gendron’s primary concern is rectifying his team’s scoring woes.

After finishing 57th among 59 teams in offense last season (2.03 goals per game), the Black Bears have scored even fewer goals through three games this season (1.67).

The power play was 51st at 13.7 percent in 2012-13 but it is a dismal 6.2 percent this season.

“We didn’t score many goals last season and we have pretty much the same players this season,” said Gendron. “We have got to find ways to execute offensively. The bottom line is we have to score more goals.”

Gendron has broken it down into three parts.

“It is about speed, speed of execution and precision of execution,” explained Gendron. “Generally, we have played the game with a fair amount of speed. But the speed of execution and the precision of execution is not there.

“We take one dribble too many before shooting the puck or hold on to the puck too long before passing it,” said Gendron.

He noted that by taking a second longer to shoot the puck, that gives the goalie a chance to square himself to the shooter and cover more of the net. It also enables an opposing defenseman to get over to block the shot or at least get his stick on it.

“Or we may get a great opportunity and miss the net,” said Gendron. “We may also have a bad-angled shot and miss the net to the far side so the puck hits the boards and comes right out of the zone.”

By missing the net, the team fails to extend the offensive zone time.

The Minutemen feature the all-senior line of Branden Gracel between Michael Pereira and Conor Sheary. In the 21 games they have played together spanning the second half of last season and this season, they have produced 27 goals and 31 assists. Freshman center Steve Iacobellis (3 goals, 1 assist), junior RW and linemate Troy Power (2 & 2) and senior defenseman Joel Hanley (1 & 3) are UMass’ top point-getters and Gracel has three goals.

The game will pit the nation’s second-best power play in UMass (32 percent efficiency) against the country’s eighth-best penalty killing unit in Maine (92.9 percent).

Center Stu Higgins (2 goals), left wing Connor Leen (0 & 2) and defenseman Jake Rutt (0 & 2) are the only Bears with more than a point.

UMass junior Steve Mastalerz (2-2, 2.53 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) and Maine senior Martin Ouellette (1-2, 2.69, .913) is the likely goaltending matchup.

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