Maine Hockey Journal

Black Bears learning on the fly

PHOTO: Alex Shehata

PHOTO: Alex Shehata

ORONO – The University of Maine men’s hockey team is still looking for its first win of the season as it enters the third weekend of the season.

It won’t be an easy road for the Black Bears as the road to victory is confronted by a potential road block, having lost to their upcoming opponent once already this season.

The University of Alaska-Anchorage handed Maine a 3-1 in the opening game of the Kendall Classic on October 10.

Although an 0-4-0 start is not what the Black Bears were expecting to the begin the season. There is good news, and that is that the issues are correctable according to the Black Bears captain Devin Shore.

“You’re going to have weekends like that,” Shore said. “You’re going to have games like that. The effort is there, but the smart’s not there. You’re not taking the quickest route to the puck. You’re almost over working instead of working smarter. You just gotta keep the effort up, and trust the system, and trust that if you do all the right things that it will eventually come, and that’s all you can do.”

Knowing what the problems are and addressing them in practice is only one of the steps in the process to getting back to the top of the Hockey East standings. All great teams execute on the ice in big moments and when the game is on the line. Maine needs to prove that they are capable of doing that, and doing so consistently.

For Gendron, it is a matter of doing things that are required to win and not doing too much.

“Learning to win means you have absolute discipline in your system. You have precision in the execution of your fundamental skills. When the guy is open you give him the puck, you don’t look him off. You don’t try to find something better,” he said after Saturday night’s loss to Union.

“The game is sixty minutes long. You have to let it come to you so you form these habits in your systems, in your execution of your offensive tactics, and you just do it because the game dictates that,” he added. “You play exceptional defense, you’re always in a position, your sticks are in the right place, and you use the proper techniques, all of those things. That’s how you learn how to win and once you learn how to win you, have to learn how to handle winning.”

Gendron knows what it takes to win at a high level, having done so as an assistant coach both at Maine under Shawn Walsh and on the 2013 Yale Bulldogs National Championship team. Add in a few Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils in the National Hockey League, and the guy has a pretty good sense of how to do things the right way.

Gendron has shown no painc or concern for the status of the team be it the record, power play, goaltender or current state of the team. It’s tough to travel over 6,000 miles to play your first two road games, and then take on the defending national champions the following weekend.

Last year’s scoring leaders Ben Hutton (0g, 0a) and Devin Shore (0g, 1a) are off to a slow start compared to a season ago, but others like Steven Swavely and Cam Brown have stepped up their play.

Brown was the only player to score Saturday night, netting both goals in the 5-2 loss and bringing his points total to four (2g, 2a).

Although, Swavely hasn’t registered a point this season, he’s been a noticeable force centering the second line flanked by freshman Nolan Vesey (0g, 0a) and sophomore Blaine Byron (1g, 1a).

Maine’s discipline before and after the whistle is going to be important going forward as the special teams need to improve if the Black Bears are looking to compete and win every game.

The Black Bears lead Hockey East in time on the penalty kill and have the league’s seventh best percentage (.833).

Meanwhile, the sluggish Maine power play has had the most opportunities with the extra man and only have the eighth-ranked percentage at a dismal .059, going 1-for-17.

“So right now two weeks into the season, if I’m trying to assess where we are at as a hockey club. I would say that we have learned how to compete, but we have not learned how to win.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login