May 23, 2018
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Leen questionable for BU series as Maine hockey team seeks to rebound from loss

Connor Leen
By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff

ORONO — Lineup changes are in the offing in the wake of the University of Maine’s underwhelming 3-0 loss to Vermont on Saturday night. One possible exclusion for this weekend’s series against Boston University could be sophomore left winger Connor Leen, the team’s second-best goal scorer with seven.

Leen has been suffering from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease.

Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Leen, who has been battling a flare-up for more than a month and has tried a new medication, was scheduled to see a specialist on Tuesday.

Whitehead said Leen is questionable for the series. He has seen limited practice time since the flare-up.

The disease played a role in Leen’s limited service last season. He played in just 22 of Maine’s 40 games and scored one goal.

He has played in all but one of Maine’s 28 games this season and has seven goals and five assists. He is third on the team in points with his 12 and is tied for second in game-winning goals with two.

He has been pointless in his last three games after scoring a pair of goals, including a game-winner, in the previous three.

If he is unable to play, that would leave Maine without two of its first-line players as senior center Kyle Beattie remains sidelined with a concussion.

Whitehead said Saturday’s performance has compelled him to juggle the lines for the home series against 13th-ranked Boston University on Friday (7:30) and Saturday (7) nights.

After notching the first nine shots on goal against Vermont over the first 10 minutes, the Black Bears were outshot 32-10 the rest of the way including a 14-1 disadvantage in the second period.

It marked the seventh time this season Maine has been shut out, which set a school record. The previous high of six was set in the 2007-2008 season.

Junior defenseman Brice O’Connor and redshirt freshman defenseman/forward Billy Norman, who were healthy scratches against Vermont, will be back in the lineup on Friday night.

Whitehead said he is toying with the idea of moving sophomore defenseman Jake Rutt up front.

Maine is 58th among 59 teams in goals-per-game with 1.71 and Whitehead said they “must get more second shots.”

The Maine players, whose season-high four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) was snapped by Vermont, said they aren’t going to dwell on the loss.

“We’ve got to erase it from our minds and look forward to the BU series,” said sophomore center Stu Higgins. “It was just a bad game. We didn’t play well.

“I’m very comfortable with the team’s attitude. Everyone is very hungry. We know every second of every game is important. We’ve got to keep fighting,” Higgins added.

“It’s a tough conference. You aren’t going to win every game,” said junior right wing Jon Swavely. “We know what we need to do to get into the playoffs. We’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to take a page out of Vermont’s book this weekend [with a better work ethic].”

“We’re 6-4-3 since Christmas. We’ll bounce back,” said Whitehead.

Putting more pucks to the net is another theme.

“We shouldn’t be trying to make cute plays,” said senior left wing Adam Shemansky.

Boston University will enter the series with a 1-5-1 mark over its previous seven games, including a 7-4 loss to Harvard in the Beanpot Tournament consolation game on Monday in which the Terriers squandered 2-0 and 3-2 leads.

BU has allowed 30 goals in those seven games.

BU beat Maine 1-0 on Dec. 8 at Agganis Arena behind freshman goalie Sean Maguire’s 28 saves and the Terriers are 7-1-2 in their last 10 trips to Orono.

“BU has a great team. We’re excited to get back out there,” said Whitehead, whose team is in ninth place, one point behind Vermont in the battle for the eighth and final Hockey East playoff spot.

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