The University of Maine’s hockey team unveiled its blueprint for success in Saturday afternoon’s 5-1 victory over defending three-time Atlantic Hockey champion American International College: balanced scoring.
The five goals were the most scored by the Black Bears in a game this season. Twelve players factored on the score sheet with at least a goal or an assist including four of the seven defensemen. It was just the eighth time in a 131-game span in which UMaine scored as many as five even-strength goals in a game.
UMaine has now scored eight even-strength goals in its last two games and 12 in its last four, with the win snapping a seven-game winless streak. It may give this team a needed confidence boost. While the Black Bears are fun to watch and work hard, a lack of goal production has been a recurring theme in the program’s demise over the last decade and continues here.
Most of UMaine’s recent goals have been greasy ones after they have attacked the net front and got bodies in front of the goalie. They have outworked their opponents. That’s how most goals are scored. Virtually every college goalie will save shots they can see unless it is a well-placed laser.
Maine has established a solid top line with junior center Lynden Breen between senior left wing Ben Poisson and freshman right wing Felix Trudeau. Breen scored his team-leading fifth and sixth goals against AIC, while Trudeau had a pair of assists and Poisson notched an assist.
Breen and Poisson have played together for several years and have established a chemistry and Trudeau is the constant goal-scoring threat that complements them. Trudeau is playing catch-up because he missed the first five games due to a hand injury.
But depth is a major question. It is important to have a top line that is capable of not only scoring on a consistent basis but also impacting the momentum of a game with a dominant shift.
Players on two other lines, Nolan Renwick and Donavan Houle, also scored against AIC. They are two players capable of putting the puck in the net. Houle was the leading goal scorer a year ago with 10 and just needs to be more consistent. Goal production has been the only thing missing from Renwick’s game. He needs to bear down in front of the net and attack it.
The establishment of a second scoring line would be extremely helpful and having a third and fourth line that can chip in goals from time to time would also be beneficial. They have that capability.
After that, look for the defensive corps to start becoming more involved in the offense. Five of the nine defensemen are freshmen and two more are sophomores. Freshman Luke Antonacci scored his first goal against AIC and fellow freshman Brandon Holt has a pair of goals.
As they continue to get more comfortable and confident, they will activate more into the attack and they are quick enough and skilled enough to contribute.
The one huge issue moving forward is the power play. It continues to plummet in the NCAA statistics to 59th among 60 Division I teams, with Its 7.5 percent success rate only better than Holy Cross’ 6.6 percent. It is now 0-for-17 over its last six games.
It has cost them games and almost makes no mathematical sense. How can you score eight even-strength goals in two games and no power play goals in six?
They work on it constantly, but it has to start clicking immediately.
The 3-8-1 Black Bears, still looking for their first Hockey East win (0-5-1), will travel to Vermont (5-9-1, 2-8 in Hockey East) for games at 7 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.