The University of Maine men’s hockey team will complete the first portion of its schedule with an exhibition game against a highly skilled United States National Development Program’s Under-18 team on Saturday night at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth Township, Michigan.
The USA Under-18 team will visit Orono next season.
The Black Bears are off to a disappointing 5-7-2 start but did earn three out of four points last weekend at the University of Vermont where they won 2-1 in overtime before tying the next night 3-3.
UMaine won’t play again until it visits Princeton University in New Jersey on Dec. 28 and 29.
UMaine head coach Red Gendron said the exhibition game will be valuable because it will provide an opportunity to give playing time to players who have not had much as he continues to search for depth, potential goal scorers and power-play personnel.
It will also enable his team to avoid going nearly a full month between games.
“It’s great for players to have time off in order to rest their bodies. But not having too long a period of time between games is also good,” said Gendron, who will rest or limit the playing time of players who have nagging injuries or who have logged a ton of ice time.
Gendron, senior defenseman and co-captain Rob Michel, and junior center Tim Doherty acknowledged that the team has not lived up to its potential, but they were encouraged by the win and tie at Vermont.
“It hasn’t been an ideal start, but we’re definitely getting better,” Doherty said.
“The 5-7-2 record isn’t indicative of the type of team we are or the type of team we can be,” said Michel, who added that he likes the way they have been playing lately.
UMaine has allowed just six goals in its past three games and has cut down on its number of penalties, giving opponents an average of four power plays per game during the past four games after giving up an average of six over the previous three games.
“Nobody is satisfied with our record. But if we play the way we’ve been playing lately, we’ll give ourselves a chance to do something in the second half,” Gendron said.
UMaine is 3-3-2 in Hockey East, but six of those eight games were played on the road, meaning UMaine has 10 of its final 16 league games at home.
UMaine has scored just 2.21 goals per game, is 47th among 60 Division I schools and its power play has been abysmal, operating at 10.9 percent efficiency (57th).
“We need to shoot the puck more and shoot it sooner,” Gendron said.
Michel said they have to keep things “simple” on the power play.