University of Maine men’s hockey coach Red Gendron said a number of his players underperformed in Saturday night’s 7-2 loss to Boston College but said Tuesday’s 7 p.m. exhibition game against the University of New Brunswick in Orono will give them an opportunity to play up to their capabilities.
Gendron will also use the game to evaluate players, particularly those who are vying for playing time, while also preparing for this weekend’s home-and-home series against the University of New Hampshire.
He said everybody will play, including starting goalie Martin Ouellette, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots. Senior Dan Sullivan finished up and stopped 13 of 16 shots.
“The goals weren’t Marty’s fault,” said Gendron, who added that his top players won’t play as much as usual with the UNH series looming.
Sullivan and third-string goalie Matt Strickrott played in last Tuesday’s 4-1 exhibition victory over St. Francis Xavier (Nova Scotia).
Gendron added that there are “no shortcuts to winning in this league” and everyone has to be dialed in on every shift.
He said his team played a strong first period and four to five minutes in the second period before three BC goals in a span of 1:38 proved to be their undoing.
The first-year Maine coach said the team must continue to “grow and get better every day.
“We want to be playing our best hockey in March in the playoffs. That’s our goal,” said Gendron.
After allowing 11 goals in an eight-game stretch in which his Black Bears went 5-1-2, Boston College torched the Black Bears for the most goals they have allowed since a 7-2 loss to Vermont in Orono on Feb. 11, 2011.
After the UNB game, Maine, 11-8-3 overall and 5-3-2 in Hockey East, will travel to Durham, N.H., on Friday night seeking its first road win (0-7-2) before entertaining the Wildcats on Saturday evening. Maine is 9-1 at home.
UNB has won three Canadian titles over the past five years and battled to a 2-2 overtime tie at Maine last season.
Gendron and his players watched videotape of Saturday’s loss on Sunday and are ready to put the loss behind them.
Maine, which had killed off 22 of 24 power plays in the eight previous games, allowed three power-play goals on BC’s seven chances.
“We have to have a short-term memory and learn from it,” said Maine sophomore center Devin Shore. “We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to look ahead to our next game.
“We have to keep our chins up, understand we didn’t play well and not dwell on it. We need to use it as motivation for next weekend,” added Shore.
Senior defenseman Brice O’Connor said the team has to stay on the same page and stick to the game plan.
“We didn’t execute. We didn’t compete hard enough in the defensive zone to give ourselves a chance to win,” added O’Connor.
Gendron said the top priority will be to work on “team defense.”
BC’s three-goal spurt made it a 4-1 lead and forced the Black Bears to play catch-up. Stu Higgins’ power-play goal with 1:20 left in the second period pulled Maine within 4-2 but a Conor Riley boarding penalty just 22 seconds into the third period led to Patrick Brown’s power-play goal 54 seconds later and the Black Bears never recovered.
Maine, despite the defensive collapse against BC, is still the nation’s ninth-stingiest team, allowing 2.23 goals per game.
It is 16th in offense, averaging 3.23 goals per game.
Maine’s penalty-killing percentage fell to 83.9 percent, 17th best, and the power play is 23rd at 19.8 percent.
Maine took an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 16 minutes but is still the nation’s sixth-least penalized team at 8.5 penalty minutes per game.
Maine is tied for the lead in shorthanded goals with Mercyhurst, as each has eight.
Sophomore Ben Hutton continues to share the national lead in goals by defenseman with nine. He is tied with junior Joey LaLeggia from Denver.
Shore is tied for 16th in points per game at 1.23. He had his 11-game points streak snapped in the 1-1 overtime tie at UMass Lowell on Friday night but had an assist vs. BC. His three shorthanded goals tie him for the national lead.
Ouellette is sixth in save percentage (.933), 13th in goals-against average (2.04) and tied for second with three shutouts.
Shore (11 goals, 16 assists), Hutton (9-9) and left wing Connor Leen (3-15) continue to lead the team in scoring.
Coach Gardiner MacDougall’s UNB Varsity Reds, the defending Canadian national champion, are 16-4 and tied for the league lead in Atlantic University Sport. They have won the league title the last three seasons.
They have been led by Chris Culligan (13-13), Philippe Maillet (8 & 13), Nick MacNeil (7-12), Thomas Nesbitt (8-10) and Chris Braes (9-8) along with defensemen Jordan Murray (4-9) and Ben Shutron (1-8) and goalie Charlie Lavigne (14-4, 2.62 GAA, .897 save percentage).
UNB has won five straight.