Maine Hockey Journal

The Black Bears look to bounce back against the Friars on the road

Orono, ME — The University of Maine men’s ice hockey team, who is currently ranked No. 9 according to the top-20 poll, will attempt to knock off some of the rust after a week of rest because of the holiday break.

The Black Bears will be looking to put their last series against Boston College far in the rear view mirror and focus all their energy and hard work on dismantling Providence College when they travel to Rhode Island for the weekend series at Schneider Arena.

Maine leads the series overall against the Friars 60-37-5, but playing on the road hasn’t been as nice to the Black Bears as compared to playing at the Alfond where they hold a 36-14-3 record.

This year, Providence will be looking to beat, if not sweep the Black Bears on home ice, as they have yet to lose a home game at Schneider Arena.

Likewise, Maine will be looking to find only their second road win of the season, as even they admit they haven’t lived up to their potential, posting a 1-3-2 record away from Alfond Arena.

“It’s going to be a tough place to play,” said forward Brian Flynn. “I don’t think Providence has lost at home yet and we’ve been struggling on the road, so that right there will be a challenge for us.”

This weekend’s series is expected be a tough battle for Maine. With both teams currently tied in the Hockey East standings with nine points, Maine, who is coming off a break, will try to put some distance between themselves and the Friars.

It won’t be an easy task as Providence will be looking to find that separation in the standings themselves, beginning with the help of Walnut, California native Kyle MacKinnon, who has nine goals, five assists for 14 points, which leads the Friars in scoring.

Ian O’Connor follows MacKinnon with 12 points (3G, 9A) and will have to be another key player if Providence wants to have a chance at defeating the Black Bears.

Looking to the net, Alex Beaudry, a junior from Cumberland, Ontario, has played in 13 games this season earning a 2.85GAA with a .908 save percentage.

“I think Beaudry will be on top of his game and it could be a low scoring game,” said Sullivan on his counterpart. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a low scoring game with their defensive minded team.”

Strong defensive teams is something Providence coach Tim Army is known for, going back to his days as an AHL coach with the Portland Pirates. Despite having strong offensive players, he would preach defense first.

“Providence College is going to be a good team,” said Ryan Hegarty. “In prior years, the Friars have shown that they have been that strong of a team by not making it to the playoffs, but this year I think there a really good team.”

In order for Maine to get back on track they will have to start by getting their power play and penalty killing back to where it once was prior to the losses against Boston College.

“The two big things we need to improve on is the power play and penalty kill,” said Flynn. Last year, it was something we could rely on to get a couple of goals each night, but the past few weeks we’ve been struggling on the power play.”

With Jeff Dimmen and Will O’Neil looking from the seats because of injuries, the coaching staff will be looking toward some of the younger players to step up and make an impact, like Brice O’Connor, who started in place of the injured Dimmen along with Mike Cornell.

With two of Maine’ top scoring defensemen out of lineup for the near future, it will be up to others in the lineup to produce offense in the wake of losing Dimmen and O’Neil.

The Black Bears don’t have a lot of time to experiment either as they only have four games till the December break so they understand they can’t let any game slip by them at this point in the season.

“These four games are so crucial,” Hegarty said. “We want a good mentality going into the break. Getting the next four games, getting the wins or some points is going to be huge as we’ve learned before. The points add up in the end.”

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