June 24, 2018
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Whitehead, tri-captains trying to keep last-place Maine hockey team motivated for BC series

Michael York | BDN
Michael York | BDN
Maine winger Connor Leen (29) tries to get around Boston College defenseman Teddy Doherty (4) as goalie Parker Milner (1) makes a pad save during their game in November in Orono. The Black Bears, who are in last place in Hockey East, will play two games against the first-place Eagles this weekend.
By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine —The University of Maine’s men’s hockey team hasn’t won a Hockey East game since Nov. 10 when it beat UMass Lowell 4-3 in Lowell.

The Black Bears have since gone 0-4-4 in league play and three of those losses were by one goal. So it is up to the coaching staff and the tri-captains to motivate the team and not let frustration creep into their play.

The last-place Black Bears will have to be motivated this weekend because they will be venturing to Conte Forum where they haven’t beaten the home-standing Boston College Eagles since Oct. 28, 2005.

Overall, Maine, 5-14-4 overall and 1-9-4 in Hockey East, is in the midst of a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) which represents the third time this season it has gone at least four games without a win.

Maine lost seven straight in October/November and then went 0-2-2 after beating UMass Lowell.

Defending national champ BC is 14-5-2 and 11-4-1 and leading Hockey East.

“You can’t focus on the standings, you’ve got to focus on the process,” said Maine coach Tim Whitehead. “Every day, we try to get better.”

Senior defenseman and tri-captain Mark Nemec said it’s important to hold players accountable for their play “but, at the same time, you’ve got to have fun. Everybody here plays hockey because they love the game.

“When you start losing, you can get away from that,” added Nemec.

The fact Maine has been involved in 18 games decided by one goal or less, excluding empty net goals, is cause for optimism.

“If we can get that extra goal or keep that extra goal out of the net, I don’t see why we can’t win more games,” said Nemec.

“We just try to keep the guys prepared the same as we do every week,” said senior defenseman and tri-captain Mike Cornell. “We prepare to win. There’s no sense going down there if we don’t think we can win. We have to keep the faith and the belief in the locker room. We have to make sure we do everything we can as players to prepare to win.”

“It’s tough [when you’re losing] but you don’t have a choice. You’ve got to keep showing up every day and work hard,” said senior center Kyle Beattie. “We’ve been right there in most of our games but we’ve been a few plays or a few adjustments away from getting some wins. We can’t give up.”

Junior goalie Martin Ouellette said the Bears need to keep their eyes on the prize which is making the Hockey East playoffs. Eight of the 10 teams make the playoffs.

Maine will begin the weekend four points behind eighth-place Northeastern and Vermont and five behind seventh-place UMass.

“If we can start getting some wins, we can be in the playoffs. We’re so close. That’s a big motivation for us,” said Ouellette.

The Eagles are the fourth-highest scoring team in the country (3.62 gpg), scoring more than two goals per game more than Maine (1.52). They also have the 10th best power play (22.4 percent).

But BC lost its last home game to UMass 5-2 last Friday night.

BC coach Jerry York, who recently became the nation’s winningest college hockey coach and now has 927 wins, said he doesn’t expect an easy time with the Bears.

“It’s a rivalry. They play hard and they’re always dangerous. Now they’ll be even more dangerous,” said York, who will return to the bench after a four-game absence due to eye surgery.

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