While we are only five weeks into the UMaine men’s hockey season, the Black Bears have already played nearly 1/3rd of their games. Let’s crunch the numbers so far. The most important number for the program is wins, and that stands at 5. The overall record is a respectable 5-3-2 through 10 games. They sit at 2-2-2 in the conference. Not too shabby.
As they used to say on the Beverly Hillbillies, lets do some “ciphering” to dig into that record.
The Black Bears are currently #21 in the all important Pairwise rankings. That’s also pretty darn decent. There are 60 D-1 hockey teams in the country by the way.
Maine has only played one team in the top 20 of the Pairwise rankings. That was #13 UMass Lowell this past weekend. Red Gendron’s crew went 0-1-1 against the River Hawks.
Overall Maine has played only two other teams in the Pairwise Top 30: Quinnipiac at #22 and Providence which is #24. Maine went 0-1 against the Friars and 1-1 vs Quinnipiac putting their record against the top half of the teams in the nation at 1-3-1.
In case you are wondering about Maine’s other opponents thus far, Boston University is #36, Alaska Anchorage is #41 and Vermont is #53. All three teams have losing records. Math shows us Maine went 4-0-1 against those inferior teams.
New Hampshire will be a good test this weekend in Orono as Maine plays two games against the #26 Wildcats who are 4-2-1.
Speaking of home crowds, Maine is #24 in the nation averaging 3366 fans per contest through four home games. That’s 65% of capacity. That’s down from 3793 and 74% capacity last year. This showdown with UNH is a big weekend for the team and a chance for fans to flock back into the Alfond.
The biggest bright spot of the season besides the 5 wins, or should I say the biggest key to those 5 wins, has been Jeremy Swayman. He is #6 in the nation right now with a 2.40 Goals Against Average (GAA). This includes his only bad start of the season when he got rocked by Providence. Otherwise he has been a wall.
One challenge UMaine has had through the years under Red Gendron is scoring. The Black Bears are not quite lighting the lamp enough with a 2.70 goals per game. That’s #33 in the nation. Its not awful but as mentioned they have not played the toughest competition their schedule has to offer yet, so adding some more offense going forward obviously will be vital.
Hockey is famous for handing out stars after games. Through the first third of the season I’d give the Black Bears 2 out of 3 stars. They are not where they should be in Red’s 7th year of rebuilding, but this team plays hard and seems to be trending up.
I think fans would like the numbers 17, 18 or even 19 if one of those is the win total at the end of the regular season. Those numbers could be in reach if the younger players continue to grow and Swayman continues to prove why the Bruins picked him in the draft.
Otherwise Gendron’s days could be numbered.