University of Maine players follow the action from the bench during a March 2021 Hockey East playoff game against the University of New Hampshire at Alfond Arena in Orono. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

 

Two first-year coaches will square off this weekend in Boston when Ben Barr and his University of Maine hockey team will play against Jerry Keefe’s Northeastern University Huskies at Matthews Arena.

It’s the first Hockey East series of the season for the Black Bears. Game times are 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Barr will be looking for his first win as his Black Bears are 0-3-1 while Keefe will be seeking his first league win after dropping 5-3 decisions to Boston College and the University of Connecticut.

Northeastern is 3-3 overall.

Barr, who was the associate head coach for NCAA champion University of Massachusetts last season, has replaced the late Red Gendron.

Keefe had served as the associate head coach/assistant at Northeastern for 10 years and has taken over for Jim Madigan, who is now NU’s athletic director.

“It’s a great league. You have a tough game every night,” Barr said. “It will be a great experience for our kids to go down there and play a really good team.”

The challenge for the Black Bears will be to generate goals against Northeastern’s sophomore goalie Devon Levi, who already has three shutouts in six games.

Levi blanked Bentley 4-0 with 29 saves; Holy Cross 3-0 with 20 saves and Colorado College 1-0 with 25 saves.

UMaine has scored just seven goals in its four games and is a dismal 1-for-16 on the power play.

However, UMaine did rally for two third-period goals to earn a 3-3 tie with Sacred Heart (Connecticut) in its last game on Saturday night.

Even though his team is averaging less than two goals a game, Barr said he feels they have promise.

“I’ve liked the puck movement. … I’d be more worried if we weren’t getting scoring chances,” Barr said.

“When we play as well as we did the second night at Omaha (5-3 loss) and Saturday night against Sacred Heart, we shouldn’t lose or tie games. But if we can keep that level of play up, the results will take care of themselves.”

He added that they have to do a better job putting their shots on net.

“We need to get more pucks and bodies to the net,” said junior center Ben Poisson. “We’ll do one but not the other. We’ve been leaving a lot of pucks around the net. Those should go in the  net.”

Senior left wing Adam Dawe said they have spent more time on the power play this week and said “we’ve been working on different plays that teams haven’t seen yet. We’re still getting used to each other. It’s getting better.”

The UMaine players are excited about beginning league play and said they are going to have to be physical against a highly skilled Northeastern team.

“We have to finish our checks and outwork them. We have to win the one-on-one battles,” Poisson said.

Barr said his team has to be physical “no matter who we play,”

Dawe (1 goal, 2 assists) and senior defenseman Jakub Sirota (3 assists) are UMaine’s leading scorers while NU has been led by Aidan McDonough (6 goals, 1 assist) and Ty Jackson (1 & 4).