Adam Dawe (left) of the University of Maine men's hockey team salutes the crowd after scoring a goal during a 2020 game. Teammate Jakub Sirota looks on. Credit: Mark Tutuny / UMaine Athletics

University of Maine first-year men’s hockey coach Ben Barr has had a lot of sleepless nights this season.

A lot of it has to do with infant twins Griffin and Isla. But it also has to do with his struggling team, which will take a 1-11-3 record into a home series this weekend against 5-8-2 Union College (N.Y.) of the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Game times are 7:30 p.m. on Friday night, and 5 p.m. on Saturday.

But Barr said he slept well last weekend even though his offensively-challenged team lost to Vermont 1-0 in overtime and then had a frustrating 1-1 tie in which his team outshot the Catamounts 51-17. Vermont went on to win the shootout after the five-minute overtime.

The team gave its best effort over that weekend that Barr said he has seen so far, saying it is establishing “a standard work ethic we’re starting to understand.”

“We can build on those things. Eventually, if you keep pounding the rock and keep doing things like getting pucks and men to the net, you’ll eventually score more than one goal in a game or zero,” Barr, a former Union assistant, said. “We’ve just got to be a little hungrier and play with a little more tenacity.”

The Black Bears have allowed two or fewer goals in each of its last four games, but only has two ties and two losses in those four games because it has scored just three goals.

UMaine enters this weekend’s series tied for 53rd in goals scored among 59 Division I teams with an average of 1.67 per game.  It has been held to one goal or less seven times.

The power play has been the primary culprit, operating at just 6.4 percent efficiency (3-for-47) and going six games without a goal (0-for-16). Only Sacred Heart (5.6 percent) and Yale (3 percent) have worse power play percentages.

UMaine, which has been involved in nine games decided by one goal or ended in a tie, squandered a five-minute power play opportunity at the end of regulation and into the overtime in Saturday’s game against Vermont, which senior right wing Adam Dawe called frustrating.

“We deserved to win last Saturday. Everybody is capable of scoring goals. We aren’t bearing down,” he said. “But the goals will come.”

Dawe said they have been taught things on the power play they had never been taught before like “where our feet should be pointed when we get the puck. We’re still getting used to it.”

Barr pointed out that each team had a four-on-three power play over the weekend but Vermont scored on its opportunity to earn a 1-0 win because the Catamounts had someone willing to go to the net front and screen goalie Victor Ostman.

“We drew up a (similar) plan on Saturday but, instead, our guy in front stood off to the side,” he said.

Until Barr gets all of his players willing to do the little things on a consistent basis like getting to the net front and screening the goalie, he said goals will be hard to come by. Barr said it’s the execution of the little things that determine which teams are average, which are good and which ones are great.

He also said they are having trouble getting shots from the point through onto the goalie during the power play. Many are being blocked.

“That has been a major issue. We’re missing a scoring threat up top. So we’re working with the three defensemen we use up top (Jakub Sirota, David Breazeale and Adrien Bisson) on improving their mobility (so they can get into a shooting lane). They’re getting better,” he said.

One area where UMaine has shown dramatic improvement is in its discipline. UMaine is the least penalized team in Division I, averaging just seven penalty minutes per game.

It was the nation’s second-most penalized team a year ago at 15.3 minutes per game and has been among the 10 most penalized teams on a regular basis. But now it has to find a way to score goals.

“As bad as it seems, we are getting better,” said graduate student captain Jack Quinlivan. “Our execution just needs to get better.”