At the moment we are sitting around what would normally be slightly past the midway point of the season and so far, the University of Maine women’s ice hockey season has had its ups and downs. Currently sitting in sixth place in the Hockey East standings with a 5-7 record, the Black Bears are far from the elites of the conference, trailing Northeastern and Boston College, but are also pretty clear of the cellar dwellers of the league like Holy Cross and Merrimack.
The Black Bears have big strengths and big weaknesses that have affected their season so far. Their biggest strength is their goaltending, with fourth-year goalie Loryn Porter putting on a phenomenal performance so far this season. Porter has the fourth best goals against average in Hockey East, only allowing 1.67 goals per game. She has had a much bigger workload than two of the goalies ranked ahead of her in that stat. She also ranks No. 3 in Hockey East in save percentage with an impressive 0.954 save percentage. Out of her competition, one goalie ahead of her in save percentage has only played three games, whilst Porter has played 12. An argument can be made that Porter is the best goalie in Hockey East this season when considering the teams around her, and especially when compared to the best goalie statistically in the conference, Aerin Frankel of Northeastern. Porter has been the biggest bright spot on the team, showcasing her talents in what is only her first year as a starter at the D1 college level.
The Black Bears’ biggest weakness is goal scoring, as they have totaled only 14 goals in 12 games. Compared to past feats, this year’s season hasn’t had spectacular success in scoring. Only one team in Hockey East has a worse goals per game; Merrimack has scored a total of 11 goals in 13 games. Second-year forward Ida Kuoppala carries the offense for UMaine, and when she is not on the ice, her teammates struggle. She has earned points on eight of the 14 UMaine goals this season. She leads the team with 8 points in 10 games, 4 points more than the next highest total on the team. Only three players on the Black Bears have scored more than 3 points this season. The lack of depth scoring has been costly, with the Black Bears losing four of their seven games by one goal. Five of their seven losses have been the result of a shutout.
As of late, the Black Bears have been trending downwards. They started the season 4-2 and were looking to build off that great start. However, they have been unable to maintain that momentum and have now lost five out of the last six games. Granted, three of those games were against Northeastern, who are currently the best team in Hockey East. Northeastern regularly ranks at the top of the league and is currently the third-ranked team in the country with a record of 13-1-1. Despite the challenge, the Black Bears must focus on their offense if they hope to improve their standing in America East.
Despite the rough patch they’ve hit recently, there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the Black Bears. Their defense and goaltending have been great, and they are a tough team to play. A couple great examples of this are when UMaine pushed Northeastern into overtime for a 3-2 loss, and when they gave up only one goal in a previous game against the Huskies. Northeastern typically averages over four goals a game and blows a lot of teams out, but not UMaine. Northeastern has set the bar high in Hockey East, but UMaine has held their own in head-to-head games thus far. Currently, UMaine has the second lowest goals against per game in Hockey East of teams that have played at least 10 games, and if they can bolster the offensive plays from their depth players, they could easily right the ship and make some noise in the Hockey East playoffs. It is not unthinkable to believe that depth pieces will start to chip in more, and given the circumstances, a new star player could still emerge.