Nolan Renwick #23. University of Maine vs Alaska at Alfond Arena Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine’s hockey team has played better than its 2-6-1 record indicates.

But it doesn’t matter.

The record is all that counts, and the Black Bears will be looking to snap a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) when they travel to North Andover, Massachusetts, for a two-game series at Merrimack College, with a 4 p.m. Friday game followed by a 7 p.m. Saturday contest.

UMaine is 0-3-1 in Hockey East while Merrimack is 6-3 and 4-1, respectively.

These will be UMaine’s eighth and ninth games against a nationally ranked opponent, as Merrimack is currently ranked 19th in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll. The Merrimack games take on added significance because UMaine will play just one more game until its next Hockey East series at Vermont on Dec. 2-3.

“We want to go into the break on a high note,” said sophomore center Nolan Renwick. 

“We’re working hard. We’re giving it everything we have. But if we want to take that next step as a team and a program, we have to have more of a killer instinct. We have to learn how to put teams away and win games.”

UMaine is coming off a pair of road losses to current No. 7 UConn, 3-2 in overtime and 3-2 in regulation.

“There’s not much more to say. We just have to deliver,” said second-year UMaine coach Ben Barr. 

“Do we want to be the guy who makes the play in a tight game or at the end of a game against a really good team? Or do we want to be the guy who turns the puck over or falls down? Are we playing to win or are we playing not to lose?”

Assistant captain Ben Poisson attributed some of the team’s struggles to its inexperience. UMaine has 16 newcomers and 11 have played in at least six games so far. 

“We do all it takes to win games on paper. We’re on the right track. The analytics say we control more of the game, have more chances and have more shots,” said the senior left wing. “But that last step is controlling the momentum. [The opponent] gets the momentum for five minutes and that’s all it takes sometimes.”

Saturday’s loss at UConn epitomized UMaine’s season so far.

The Black Bears had a 1-0 lead and went on a five-minute power play with 1:05 left in the first period. But instead of extending the lead, UMaine managed just two shots on goal and didn’t score.

Forty-three seconds after the power play elapsed, UConn tied it.

Trailing 2-1 in the third period, Lyndon Breen tied it for UMaine with 5:10 left.

Just 46 seconds later, Justin Pearson scored the game-winner for UConn.

UMaine has averaged just 2.11 goals per game, which is tied for 47th among 60 Division I schools and its power play is 54th at a dismal 9.7 percent.

In fact, UMaine has as many shorthanded goals as it has power play goals, at 3 each.

“We have been playing pretty well defensively. We aren’t giving up many high-volume scoring chances. But we have to start putting more pucks in the back of the net,” said Renwick.

The team’s next game after the Merrimack series will be a 2 p.m. non-conference afternoon home game against three-time Atlantic Hockey champ American International College on Saturday, Nov. 26.