University of Maine hockey winger Felix Trudeau celebrates a goal with teammates in a 5-1 win over American International University in Orono on Nov. 26. Credit: Courtesy of UMaine Athletics

University of Maine second-year men’s hockey coach Ben Barr doesn’t mince words.

He is refreshingly candid. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything and isn’t one to lavish praise on his team or players unless it’s warranted.

Following Friday night’s 3-1 win at the University of Vermont, which snapped the Catamounts’ four-game home winning streak, he bemoaned his team’s inability to score goals.

Even though his Black Bears had won and he was pleased with the effort, they outshot UVM 41-19. Barr said they shouldn’t have needed an empty net goal by Cole Hanson to sew up the victory.

Vermont played much better on Saturday night, but the Black Bears overcame a fluke goal by UVM that cut the lead to 2-1 and pulled away for a 5-1 triumph.  

Barr said he has admired his team’s work ethic, dedication and tenacity this season and that his team has always played hard and left everything out on the ice.

After Saturday’s win to complete the team’s first road sweep of a Hockey East opponent since 2020, he said he likes the potential of his young team, which has had eight freshmen and four sophomores in the lineup during its three-game winning streak.

“I honestly believe we can beat anyone in this league. If we can continue to execute at this level every night and if we keep getting better, we will be a tough out in the playoffs,” said Barr, whose team is now 5-8-1 overall and 2-5-1 in Hockey East. The last four league losses were by a total of five goals, including an empty-netter, and on the road against nationally ranked teams UConn and Merrimack.

UConn is currently ranked eighth in the country in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and posted a pair of 3-2 wins over UMaine, including one in overtime. Merrimack is 11th and edged UMaine 1-0 and then 5-3 with an empty-net goal.

In non-conference play, UMaine is the only team to have beaten No. 2 Quinnipiac this season, 4-0 on Oct. 22 in Orono. The Bobcats are 12-1-3.

The three-game winning streak is the longest since the 2019-20 season, when goalie Jeremy Swayman, who was a Hobey Baker Award Hat Trick finalist and Mike Richter Award winner, backstopped five straight wins.

During the current win streak, which began with a 5-1 home win over American International College, UMaine has received at least a goal or assist from 17 of its 19 skaters.

UMaine has now received at least one goal from 17 players this season compared with 16 in 33 games a year ago.

That is the blueprint for success for this team: balanced scoring.

The Black Bears do have an established top line with junior Lynden Breen between senior Ben Poisson and freshman Felix Trudeau. Assistant captains Breen (6 goals, 5 assists) and Poisson (3 goals, 7 assists) are the team’s leading scorers, and Trudeau has 2 goals and 6 assists in just nine games.

But they have also received goals from the other three lines during the three-game winning streak.

Last season’s leading goal scorer, right wing Donavan Houle, is heating up and has scored a goal in each of his past three games. He notched the game-winner both nights at Vermont.

And the defense corps has combined to produce six goals and 22 assists. Four defenders have scored at least one goal.

The sweep at Vermont was significant because six of UMaine’s eight Hockey East games have been on the road.

That means 10 of their final 16 league contests will be at an energized Alfond Arena.

The Black Bears finally scored a power play goal in the second Vermont game after an 0-for-19 showing over the previous seven games, which will give them some confidence moving forward.

While the team’s improved scoring has been a key to its success, the play of junior goaltender Victor Ostman has been overlooked.

He has allowed one goal in four of his past five starts. He now has an impressive 2.10 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Ostman is allowing over a goal less than he did a year ago when he had a 3.31 GAA and a .900 save percentage.

He has certainly benefited from a much more mobile and skilled defense corps and forwards who backcheck relentlessly.

UMaine will play its final game before the Christmas break at 2 p.m. Saturday  when it hosts 5-10-2 Canisius College from Buffalo, New York..