University of Maine goalie Matthew Thiessen looks out at the action during a Dec. 11 game against New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. Photo provided by University of Maine athletics

The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team is accustomed to the sudden starts and stops to its season.

The current pause, which the school announced Monday afternoon, will keep all Black Bear teams from competing until at least Feb. 4. In a Zoom meeting with media Wednesday, men’s ice hockey coach Red Gendron said his team isn’t practicing on the ice, either. For the time being, players will work out on their own, and Gendron and his staff will look for other ways for the team to improve until it can get back on the ice together.

“That’s not ideal, but the reality is most of the teams in Hockey East have faced this before, too,” Gendron said. “This isn’t a Maine thing. The only difference between Maine and the other schools in the league is that we can’t play at home. If there’s one disadvantage we have that nobody else shares, it’s that. Everybody has had to do this, and you have to be able to come out of it and go play. We’ll have three or four practices before we have to go play, and we’ll use that time to prepare ourselves just fine.”

This is the third COVID-19 related pause of the season for the Maine’s men’s ice hockey team. The first came on Nov. 24, when the university paused all winter sports for two weeks in response to positive COVID-19 tests on campus, including with individuals connected to varsity teams. The men’s ice hockey team’s season paused again on Dec. 17, and the team went into quarantine after a member of the program tested positive for COVID-19.

At 2-7-1, Maine has played more games than just three Hockey East rivals: Vermont (eight games), Boston University (six games) and UMass-Lowell (four games). Maine has played all its games on the road because of a state rule that prohibits more than 50 people from gathering indoors.

“It’s really rather simple. We’re playing well, but we’re not playing well enough,” Gendron said. “The bottom line is, we know we have to be more consistent in our execution for longer periods of time every night. That’s the goal. You can only do that one shift at a time. We know if we’re disciplined for the whole game, if we sprint and compete for the whole game, if we follow the game plan… that we’ll in fact wind up on top.”

University of Maine senior captain forward Jack Quinlivan skates during a Dec. 11 game against New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. Photo provided by University of Maine athletics

After struggling defensively against New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell in the first two series of the season, Maine began to play better in two-game splits at Vermont and Providence. Gendron felt that improvement continued at Boston University last weekend, despite losing both games, 3-2 in overtime Friday and 5-1 Saturday.

With Hockey East building its schedule on a week-t0-week basis, the who and when of Maine’s next opponent is a question mark.

“Right now, over the last four games, we’ve actually improved our performance quite a bit. At BU the second night, we got behind. We were chasing the game. It was a question of us not finishing off any of our early chances in the game. Then we were chasing it and couldn’t find a way back into the game,” Gendron said. “We played pretty well both games down in Providence, and in many other ways, both games at BU as well. I like the direction we’re trending in right now. The results aren’t exactly where we want them to be, but after four straight weeks on the road, we see some very positive signs in our team.”

Until the Black Bears can return to the ice, they’ll focus on video study, Gendron said, looking to the tape to try to improve their play.

“We show situations. We talk about how we can improve certain parts of our game. We’ll keep the players engaged that way. We’ll keep them engaged in terms of their psychological development. Mental toughness training, those kinds of things we do on a regular basis. Most importantly, we’ll work to stick together,” Gendron said.

That cohesiveness has been the biggest plus of this season of road trips and interruptions, Gendron said. The team is tight, he said, and now that needs to translate to better play when the games start again.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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