ORONO, Maine — There are plenty of questions.
And the University of Maine’s struggling men’s hockey team will be looking for answers when the Black Bears visit UMass Lowell for a two-game series this weekend.
Maine, 1-8 overall and 0-4 in Hockey East play, will be looking to snap a six-game losing streak against a UMass Lowell team that hasn’t played since a 6-3 loss to Boston College on Oct. 28. The River Hawks, coming off an NCAA Tournament season and picked to finish second in the league’s preseason coaches poll, are also struggling with an overall 1-3-1 record and 0-2-1 in Hockey East.
UMass Lowell returned eight of its top 10 scorers and standout goalie Doug Carr.
The offensively-challenged Black Bears, who have scored only 10 goals and have been shut out in two of their last three games, will be bolstered by the return of senior center Kyle Beattie, who missed the last four games due to a pair of concussions.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead indicated Thursday that he will be careful with Beattie’s ice time, since he didn’t return to practice until this week.
Beattie was the team’s second-leading returning scorer behind senior right wing and captain Joey Diamond. Beattie had six goals and 21 assists in 40 games on Maine’s NCAA Tournament team last season.
A road trip could be just what the Bears need, as they are 0-5 at Alfond Arena in Orono.
“There’s a little less pressure on the road, especially right now,” said junior right wing Mark Anthoine. “Everyone has a negative outlook toward us because of our start and that could be beneficial. They won’t be as prepared for us.”
“When we’re home, we feel pressure to put on a show for the fans,” said senior left wing Adam Shemansky. “We have to keep it simple and play an effective road game. Anywhere we play, we have to stick to our systems.”
Anthoine said the team is trying new things.
“We haven’t found our identity yet. We keep working hard every day. It takes time,” he said. “We still have every opportunity to get better and once we figure it out, hopefully we’ll go on a run.”
Shemansky, who has yet to register a point, and Anthoine, who has a goal and an assist, are both eager to snap out of their slumps.
“I’m getting opportunities but I need to get pucks to the net and get to the dirty areas [in front],” said Shemansky, who is tied for the team lead in shots on goal with 24.
“We all feel snake-bitten,” said Anthoine, who agreed with Shemansky that they have to score the “greasy, hard-working goals” at the net front.
After the UML series, Maine has just four more games until the Florida College Classic on Dec. 28-29.
The team’s mindset is good, according to the players.
“It’s as good as it can be right now,” said Shemansky. “There’s nothing we can do about the past nine games. We can’t dwell on them.”
“We know what we need to do and we work on it every day. We all come to the rink determined to get better in every aspect of the game. [Whitehead] is guiding us really well. It’s just a matter of time,” said Anthoine.
“We’re demanding more out of ourselves and we’ve been dialed in during practice,” said Diamond. “We’re working on the little things. We’ve worked a lot on getting our shots off quicker.”
Anthoine said the team has focused on “the team stuff first. We can focus on individual stuff later. We have to work together as a team and get a win. It doesn’t matter how we score the goals or who scores them.”