The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team had committed 29 penalties in four games. The Black Bears surrendered 21 goals in those four games, including nine in Monday’s 9-5 loss at UMass-Lowell. Head coach Red Gendron knows his team has a lot of work to do. It starts with better team defense.

“It’s four games of hockey. It’s three games of less than stellar defense, and that is a fact. The bickering on the bench among the players is something that’s pretty typical when things don’t go well, but it’s something we have to put a stop to,” Gendron said in a Zoom interview with media Wednesday afternoon. “We’re 50th in team defense right now, but it’s a four-game sample. We know we have a lot of work to do, but after four games it’s not time to press the panic button.”

Maine (0-3-1) went three weeks between its season-opening series at the University of New Hampshire and the Sunday/Monday series played earlier this week at UMass-Lowell. With this weekend’s games at the University of Vermont, the Black Bears hope to finally get into a steady routine of games. The season has been a learning experience, Gendron said, and a test of patience as the season starts and stops, and games are postponed and rescheduled. While Maine’s basketball team’s have been cleared to play at home as long as fewer than 50 people are in the gym, the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams have not been cleared for home competition.

“Nobody wants to hear excuses. I don’t want to give them. We’re not playing at home. We have to deal with it,” Gendron said.

The University of Maine men’s hockey team skates during a recent practice. The Black Bears have struggled defensively during their first four games, committing 29 penalties and allowing 21 goals. Photo courtesy of University of Maine athletics

Maine took eight penalties in each of the losses at UMass-Lowell. Gendron said with the physical style of play employed by the Black Bears, some penalties are to be expected, but the team has to play smarter. Breakdowns in the third period also have been a problem. Maine allowed three goals in the third period in each of the three losses, and has been outscored in the third period, 10-3. Gendron said he cannot point to one reason for the team’s struggles in the third period.

“We’ve noticed everything. At the end of the day, it’s all of the above. Basically what has to happen is, you have to develop some consistency in what you do, and you have to be able to do it for 60 minutes. That’s what we haven’t done in those last three games. We’re working to solve that. It starts with a commitment from everybody to do it. I don’t think it’s a question of fitness. We’ve got to do a better job of staying focused on the job at hand, the details,” Gendron said.

There is a bright spot for Maine, and that’s come on special teams. The Black Bears have six power play goals, with a power play successful 30 percent of the time. Maine also has one short-handed goal. Senior forward Emil Westerlund has three power play goals.

“They’ve obviously done a real good job, certainly in three of the four games. They’re creating opportunities and they’re scoring goals and giving the team an opportunity to win,” Gendron said on the Black Bears power play unit. “You don’t always score on the power play, but it’s a momentum builder if you’re pressuring and creating scoring chances. So fat this year our power play has given us momentum on a pretty consistent basis.”

Applying that special teams consistency to the defensive game is Maine’s goal now.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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