It was another intense battle between the archrival Bowdoin College and Colby College men’s hockey teams.
Bowdoin College completely dominated the first period but found itself trailing 1-0 because it couldn’t put the puck in the net. The Polar Bears missed the net or shot into the Colby goalie’s body.
But the Polar Bears erupted for four second-period goals and went on to post a comfortable win.
Bowdoin coach Terry Meagher was asked after the game what he told his team between the first and second periods.
The two-time NCAA Division III Coach of the Year said he told his team to shoot at the goalie’s pads rather than trying to pick corners.
He explained that by shooting at the goalie’s pads, you may be able to slip the puck between the pads, especially if he is moving across the crease because he has to open his legs to push off and get across.
Secondly, if your shot hits his pads, it is likely to create a rebound that you or a teammate can pounce on.
Thirdly, if you aim at the pads but just miss them, your shot might sneak in the short side or inside the far corner.
Goal scoring is the missing ingredient for the University of Maine’s hard-working and youthful men’s hockey team, which played 10 freshmen, including five defensemen, in its 1-0 and 5-3 losses at Merrimack this past weekend.
The team is scoring just two goals per game overall, which is tied for 49th among 60 Division I teams, and only 1.67 in its six Hockey East games so far.
Until Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Merrimack, it hadn’t scored more than two goals in a game over its previous six games.
UMaine doesn’t have anyone on its roster that has scored more than 11 goals in a collegiate season.
University of Alaska Fairbanks transfer Didrik Henbrant had 11 at UAF last season and Donavan Houle scored 10 for UMaine a year ago.
But this is nothing new in Orono.
UMaine hasn’t had an All-Hockey East first team forward since current Edmonton Oiler Devin Shore in 2014.
The three goals on Saturday were encouraging because they were the get-to-the-net, blue-collar types of goals that this team will need to generate moving forward.
They weren’t highlight-reel goals, but they count just the same.
That’s not to say the Black Bears aren’t capable of scoring some pretty goals off odd-man rushes or well-orchestrated passing sequences.
But it takes time because they don’t have any elite goal scorers right now.
It has certainly been a frustrating start as the Black Bears are 2-8-1 overall, 0-5-1 in Hockey East, and are in the midst of a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1). The last four losses have been by one goal to nationally ranked teams on the road.
You can consider the 5-3 loss to Merrimack a one-goal loss because the fifth goal was an empty-netter.
UMaine doesn’t play again until it hosts three-time Atlantic Hockey Tournament champ American International College on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m.
The Black Bears can’t get frustrated because it appears that Victor Ostman is now capable of giving them consistent goaltending and Jacob Mucitelli may be able to spell him or get into a groove himself.
The freshmen defensemen have teamed with veterans Jakub Sirota, David Breazeale and Dawson Bruneski to supply the Black Bears with one of their most mobile sets of defensemen in over a decade.
And they’re only going to get better.
Now it is a matter of finding ways to score goals. Once the goals start going in, the confidence level will rise.
When you are struggling to score, you grip the stick tighter and try to be too fine. So aim for the goalie pads unless there is a ton of net showing. Get to the net, screen the goalie and make him uncomfortable.
A healthy portion of the next two weeks has to be devoted to the power play.
The power play simply can’t get any worse. It is 56th in the country at an embarrassing 8.1 success rate. It is 0-for-14 over its past five games.
UMaine has played nine of its first 11 games against teams currently ranked in the top 18 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll. Five have come against teams ranked in the top seven.
The schedule gets easier. The next eight games are against unranked teams.
This is where the Black Bears need to get over the hump, rack up some wins and build the confidence they need for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.
This team is better than its record reveals.