The University of Maine men’s hockey team had a surprisingly inept power play for most of the season, and it was a contributing factor to the team’s struggles.
Despite returning eight of the 10 players who manned last year’s power-play units, players who produced 21 of the 26 man-advantage goals, the power play languished near the bottom of the national rankings.
Recently, it has enjoyed a sudden resurgence. UMaine has converted five of its past 10 power-play opportunities going into a Friday-Saturday home Hockey East series against Providence College.
And UMass (85.4 percent) and UNH (84.8 percent) rank 12th and 15th, respectively, in Division I penalty-killing.
Prior to the past three games, UMaine had converted only 11 of 84 chances (13.1 percent).
The Black Bears are 6-4-1 when they score at least one power-play goal and 4-9-2 when they fail to do so.
Junior center and co-captain Chase Pearson, who leads the team with four power-play goals, said they have been keeping things simple lately.
“We’re making high-percentage plays,” Pearson said. “We’re moving the puck and waiting for something to open up.”
“And we’ve been getting pucks to the net instead of trying to make cute plays,” senior defenseman and co-captain Rob Michel said.
Pearson and Michel are two of nine UMaine players who have scored at least one power-play goal. Defensemen Brady Keeper and Alexis Binner, left wing Mitch Fossier, and center Tim Doherty have two apiece. Eduards Tralmaks, Patrick Shea and Adam Dawe have one each.
Michel and Pearson said the recent success has given the power-play units confidence that could could carry over to 5-on-5 situations. The Black Bears have registered 24 goals over their past six games.
The power play and the offense will be tested by a Providence team that ranks sixth in the country while allowing 2.04 goals per game and is sixth in penalty-killing (86.4 percent).
The Black Bears have had problems scoring against the Friars, who have won the past 14 meetings while limiting UMaine to two goals or fewer in 12 of those contests. PC is 17-0-1 in the last 18 games against UMaine.
“We’re aware of it but we aren’t focusing on it,” Michel said of the Friars’ domination. “We haven’t played them yet this season.”
Pearson said focusing on the past “plants a [negative] seed.”