As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
That hasn’t been the case this season for the University of Maine men’s hockey team.
Heading into a rare Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday afternoon Hockey East game against archrival New Hampshire at Alfond Arena, the Black Bears look to snap a home-ice slump during which they lost five of their past six contests.
UMaine (8-11-2, 4-5-2 HE) has been shut out in three of those five losses and has been outscored 17-4 overall.
It is the second-worst home stretch of six or more games since Red Gendron became the head coach six years ago. UMaine went 0-6-2 at home between Jan. 9 and Feb. 19, 2016.
The Black Bears are coming off their best scoring output of the season, a 7-2 win at Boston College on Wednesday night, and they hope that momentum will carry over.
“The win at BC was a good sign,” said senior left wing Danny Perez, who feels the Black Bears have to be more consistent, especially at home.
“We have the best fan base in college hockey. There is such a great tradition of winning teams here. We’ve got to find a way to win at home,” he said.
UMaine, which received goals from seven different players, hadn’t scored more than four goals in any of its previous 20 games.
“We have really been working on our offense. It has been one of our struggling points. That was a big confidence booster for us,” senior defenseman and assistant captain Keith Muehlbauer said.
Even with the seven-goal eruption, UMaine still ranks 49th among 60 Division I teams with 2.43 goals per game.
The Black Bears, who are 4-5 at Alfond Arena, have managed only 19 goals in their nine home games (2.11 gpg).
Four of the home losses came against the nation’s No. 7 and No. 8 teams, Quinnipiac and Northeastern, both of whom swept UMaine.
“That’s still not an excuse to lose like that,” junior right wing Patrick Shea said. “We’ve got to put it behind us and keep going forward.”
“We’ve got to find a way to create more energy when we come out,” senior left wing Brendan Robbins said. “We’ve been really inconsistent. It’s been hard to figure out. But it may be a good thing, too. We know we have it.”
Playing on a Monday afternoon will be different, but the UMaine players do not think it’s a big deal.
“I like it. You don’t have to wait around all day,” Shea said. “You get up and get right into it. I’m excited. I can’t wait.”
“It’s just another game day,” Muehlbauer said. “We practice every day at 2 for the most part, so it should be pretty normal for us.”
UMaine’s schedule already has included two Wednesday night games, and the holiday contest will be its second Monday game of the season.
UNH (7-8-6, 3-5-3 HE going into Friday’s game at Merrimack) is being led by first-year head coach Mike Souza, who replaced the retired Dick Umile. The Wildcats were scheduled to drive to Orono on Sunday, but due to the impending snowstorm, UNH sports information specialist Jim Wrobel said they likely will head to Maine on Saturday instead.
UMaine will host the No. 1-ranked team, the University of Massachusetts, on Jan. 25 and 26.