University of Maine first-year men’s hockey coach Ben Barr said he needs more effort, leadership and consistent play from his veterans if the team is going to start stringing together some wins.
His team is 1-10-2 overall, 1-7-1 in Hockey East, and has an opportunity to earn a much-needed win as the Black Bears entertain the University of Vermont (2-9-1, 1-4-1) on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. But the team’s veteran players have been inconsistent this season, with long droughts between scoring opportunities and fewer goals than last year.
“They’re good kids. It’s not that they don’t listen or they don’t care,” Barr said. “But there is still this wall up where [they’re saying], ‘Oh, you’re trying to change what we do.’ Yes, we are trying to change what they do. That’s the only way to change the results that you guys tell us you want to change.”
UMaine has 14 players who have been with the program for at least three years.
UMaine senior right wing Adam Dawe, one of the captains, understands Barr’s frustration.
“He knows we can give more,” Dawe said. “He really pushes us. It’s something I’m not used to. But I really appreciate it.”
Senior right wing Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup said change is something that they have to adjust to if they want to succeed.
“Obviously, things are different around here. It might be a little more challenging for guys to change who have been around the program for three years than for the new guys,” Schmidt-Svejstrup said. “It has been a little harder than we thought but we have to step up and show the way.”
Dawe averaged nearly a point per game last season, with five goals and nine assists in 16 games. He has 2 & 4 for six points in 13 games this season but doesn’t have a goal or an assist in his last six games. Schmidt-Svejstrup, who had three goals and six assists in 11 games a year ago, has 1 & 3 in 11 games this season.
“We can’t be relying on our freshmen and sophomores being the guys who bring the standard of effort every single night. It has to come from our upperclassmen,” he added.
Senior defenseman Simon Butala and graduate student defenseman Cam Spicer are both struggling in plus-minus at minus-15 and minus-5, respectively.
A player is given a plus-one if he is on the ice when his team scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal and a minus-one if the other team scores one.
Barr said everybody has to outwork their opponents if they are going to start stringing wins together.
“Every game is a chance for us to take a step as a culture. Every game is a chance for the older guys to lay the foundation for the future of the program. We’ve had some good moments but it hasn’t been good enough,” Barr said.
One of the bright spots for UMaine of late has been sophomore goalie Victor Ostman, who has allowed two goals in each of his last two games after allowing at least three in his previous 17 career starts. He has made a combined 53 saves in the shootout win at Boston College and the 2-0 loss to UMass Lowell in Portland.
“I’m a little more calm in the net,” Ostman said. “I’m going in the right direction but I’ve still got more in me. I have to control my rebounds better.”
It shapes up to be a low-scoring series as UMaine is averaging just 1.85 goals per game, which is 52nd among 59 Division I teams, while UVM is averaging two per game which is 50th.
Vermont has been led by transfer Phililp Lagunov, who played for Barr on UMass’ NCAA championship team last year. He has five goals and three assists for the Catamounts under second-year coach Todd Woodcroft.
William Lemay has 3 & 4 and defensemen Robbie Stucker (2 & 5) and Andrew Lucas (1 & 6) also have seven points. Tyler Harmon (0-7, 2.54 goals-against average, .906) save percentage and Gabe Carriere (2-2-1, 3.37, .898) have shared the goaltending.
Defense partners Jakub Sirota (3 & 4) and David Breazeale (1 & 6) are UMaine’s top scorers followed by Lynden Breen (2 & 4) and Dawe (2 & 4).
Ostman is 1-5-1 with a 3.28 GAA and a .890 save percentage.