After last weekend’s debacle, the University of Maine hockey team needed to quiet some critics this weekend.
They didn’t silence all of them, but earning three Hockey East points at Vermont – a 2-1 overtime win Friday and a 3-3 tie Saturday – will go a long way in earning fans’ trust back.
As we hit December, the Bears are a respectable 3-3-2 in Hockey East, good for sixth place. Red Gendron’s team is just three points out of second place.
Maine won’t play another league contest until it hosts that current second-place team – Northeastern – on Jan. 11/12.
Yes, Maine has struggled outside the league, but Hockey East play is where the Bears will have to make their charge.
With Hockey East filled with mediocrity, and loads of home games in the second semester, there’s no reason Maine can’t check off its first preseason goal of a home playoff series in Orono.
No disrespect to league front-runner UMass, but Providence is the lone team in the league I can see having a prayer against the likes of St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth on neutral ice sheets come March.
Yes, the Minutemen swept the Friars earlier this fall, but Providence controlled the run of play in both games, losing one-goal games each night. Yes, UMass went to Ohio State and won, but Big 10 teams like the Buckeyes and Penn State would be middle-of-the-pack teams in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Conference, home to powers such as UMD, St. Cloud and North Dakota.
Maine still has a long way to go. That 3-point weekend could’ve easily been a zero-point weekend against the league’s worst team, but the Bears found a way to win in a building where they have struggled during the Gendron era.. An exhibition against the US 18-under team awaits next week before countable games resume with a trip to New Jersey to face Princeton to kick off the unofficial second half of the season.
There’s still a chance for the Bears to make noise and for Gendron’s hot seat to cool off a bit. January will be a huge dictation of where the team is headed.
By: Ryan McLaughlin