There was a time when, late in the regular season, the Black Bears would be sitting high in the Hockey East standings. From atop their perch they would look down mercilessly to see what cellar dwelling team they would easily dispose of en route to another trip to the Garden in Boston.
But that was a day pre I-pads, smart TV’s and Bluetooth.
Right now Maine is 14-15-4 overall. They humbly sit in 6th place in Hockey East at 10-9-4. They are firmly in the middle of a very mediocre Hockey East pack.
The conference has not lived up to its standards as of late. This year only four of the eleven teams are at .500 or have a winning record.
Do you know when that happened last? 1999. When Maine won its last National Title and there were only nine teams in the conference.
If you dig a little deeper and check out the 2019 Pairwise Rankings, you’ll have to squint to find the Hockey East teams ranked. There are only two in the top ten.
Hockey East was not much better last year as the conference was not represented in the Frozen Four. That has only happened a couple of times in the last fifteen or so years.
So with the competition as a whole not what it used to be, it seems Maine is letting an opportunity for success fly by like an errant slap shot.
As mentioned they are 10-9-4 in conference play, but just 4-7 against teams ahead of them in the standings. That record includes an absolute beat down, 6-0, at UMass Saturday night on NESN. Not the showing you want when the whole New England region sees you in action.
The program tricked people a bit last season when they finished sixth in the conference, the highest seeded team to not get a bye. The conference handed out participation medals last year and allowed every team to make the tournament. Thus Maine was blessed to host a last place UNH team that had long quit on its retiring coach. Maine whooped the Wildcats in Orono before having their lunch handed to them twice at Providence. Season over.
By the way Maine was 3-11, counting playoffs, last year against the five teams that finished ahead of them in the standings.
This season there will be no home playoff games or a first round “get out of jail free card” for Red Gendron and the boys. They can not finish any higher than sixth. They could end up lower. They won’t know who they will play on the road until the games next weekend wrap up.
No matter who and where, Maine will once again be a low seed and an underdog in a struggling conference that is still Hockey East in name only.