During the University of Maine’s Hockey East sweep of UMass last weekend, all seven freshmen contributed to the 6-5 (overtime) and 3-2 wins over the Minutemen.
Five of the six freshmen skaters registered at least one point and goalie Sean Romeo backstopped Saturday night’s win with an impressive 30-save performance.
“Full marks to coach [Ben] Guite and coach [Jay] Leach for bringing in these players,” said Maine head coach Red Gendron. “One of the goals of this program is for the players to get better every day and they are. They are making inroads but it’s a long season and they haven’t done enough yet.”
Right wing Liam Pecararo assisted on both of linemate Steven Swavely’s goals in Friday’s win and had the game-tying goal in the third period of Saturday’s game. He was chosen the Hockey East Rookie of the Week.
Left wing Nolan Vesey had an assist each night while playing on the line with Swavely and Pecararo; right wing Malcolm Hayes had a power-play goal on Friday night; Jack Musil picked up an assist in Friday’s game and defenseman Mark Hamilton assisted on Devin Shore’s goal on Saturday, which triggered a rally from a 2-0 deficit.
Center Cedric Lacroix didn’t register a point but contributed physicality and with some solid penalty-killing. He centered a line between Hayes and junior left winger Will Merchant.
Hayes, Pecararo and Vesey share the freshman scoring lead on the team with three points apiece as Hayes has two goals and an assist; Pecararo has a goal and two assists and Vesey has three assists.
Hamilton has a pair of assists and Musil and Lacroix have one assist apiece while Romeo is 1-2 with a 3.72 goals-against average and a .883 save percentage.
Gendron said he believes in his freshmen.
“I have to be able to trust them. If I don’t, something is wrong with me,” he said.
Romeo adjustment yields dividends
Romeo’s performance, which included 18 first-period saves, resulted from a change in his approach.
“I had to start competing and battling more,” said Romeo. “Instead of waiting back and letting the play come to me, I came out and attacked.”
The two victories came in completely different scenarios and gave Gendron, Leach and Guite an opportunity to see their team in those situations.
The Black Bears squandered 3-0 and 5-3 leads on Friday night before winning in overtime and they trailed 2-0 on Saturday before coming back to win.
“Different stuff happened and we found out how they handled it,” said Gendron. “What I saw is us get two wins. They were different kinds of games.”
Tuell plays guitar anthem
Orono native and former hockey referee Mike Tuell, who is the color analyst on University of Maine hockey television broadcasts on ABC Channel 7 and Fox 22, rocked the Alfond Arena with a rousing rendition of the national anthem on his electric guitar before Friday night’s game.
It is believed to be the first national anthem played by a solo guitarist at the Alfond Arena.
Catamounts next for Bears
Up next for Maine is the nation’s 14th-ranked University of Vermont Catamounts in Burlington, Vermont, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Maine is 3-4-1 overall, 2-0 in Hockey East, while the Catamounts are 4-1-1 and 2-1-1, respectively.
“They play great defense and have some excellent players. And they have great goaltending,” said Gendron.
The Catamounts have allowed just 1.5 goals per game, tied for fifth best in the country, behind junior goalie Brody Hoffman, whose 1.47 GAA is ninth best. His .937 save percentage ranks him 16th in the nation.
After scoring five goals through its first four games, Maine has scored 15 in its last four while going 3-0-1.
UVM is a perfect 19-for-19 on the penalty kill.
Gendron wouldn’t reveal whether Romeo or junior Matt Morris would start in goal on Friday night.