This past weekend, the University of Maine men’s hockey team lost twice to the University of Vermont at the Alfond Arena. UMaine’s record now sits at 1-13-3 and they are currently the only team in the country to not have a win in regulation.
UMaine was shutout by Vermont 1-0 in the first game of the series. The lone goal of the contest did not come until overtime when Vermont was given a power play after first-year defenseman David Brezeale took an interference penalty that stopped a breakaway for the Catamounts. Although the penalty stopped Vermont from gaining a scoring chance in the moment, Vermont capitalized on the power play when a wrist shot by second-year defenseman Cory Babichuk beat second-year UMaine goalie Victor Ostman.
The second game of the series put UMaine’s scoring struggles on full display. UMaine outshot Vermont 51-17, but only managed one goal. UMaine’s power play struggles were on full display late in the game on Saturday night.
Late in the third period with the game tied 1-1, Vermont first-year defender Luca Münzenberger was ejected from the contest for a hit to the head of UMaine fourth-year forward Adam Dawe. This gave UMaine a five-minute power play for the last 4:27 of regulation and the first 33 seconds of overtime. A golden opportunity for UMaine to score and win their first game in regulation.
UMaine was unable to score on the power play, and they lacked high quality opportunities. After Vermont finished off the impressive penalty kill in overtime, neither team could break the deadlock and the game went to a shootout. Vermont fourth-year forward Philip Lagunov scored the only goal of the shootout, winning the game for Vermont with a highlight reel deke to beat UMaine third-year goalie Matthew Thiessen.
After the weekend the Black Bears are now ranked 58 out of the 59 teams in the country according to the Pairwise ranking system. Vermont is currently ranked 55 after getting the better of UMaine both nights. The only team ranked below UMaine is Yale University, who currently have a 2-7-0 record.
The defense for UMaine has not been the problem, but rather it’s their inability to score that has made UMaine fall to the bottom of the country. UMaine is bottom five in the country in goals with 25 goals in 15 games, averaging a measly 1.67 goals per game. They have been shutout five times and have scored more than one goal only eight times this season.
This past weekend in the span of two games that both went into overtime, UMaine was only able to score one goal on 74 shots. That one goal was more so the result of a mistake by Vermont than UMaine’s ability to score. The lone goal came in the second game of the two game series when second-year Vermont goalie Gabe Carriere passed the puck directly to UMaine second-year forward Donovan Houle who put it into essentially an empty net.
This weekend UMaine received solid performances from both goalies. On Friday, Ostman made 23 saves on 24 shots and was not beaten until overtime. On Saturday, Thiessen stopped 16 of 17 shots. Both were let down by their teammates’ inability to score.
One of the reasons UMaine cannot score is because they are particularly bad on the power play. Currently, UMaine has the third worst power play in the nation, only converting on 6.4% of man advantage opportunities. The average across the country is around 18-19%.
Breazeale and fourth-year defender Jakub Sirota make up the team’s top defensive pairing. They also share the team lead in scoring with seven points. The team’s leading scorers amongst the forwards are Dawe and second-year forward Lynden Breen with six points each. UMaine has not gotten enough production from their skill players offensively, and the depth scoring is non-existent.
Along with being at the bottom of the country, UMaine also currently sits at the bottom of the Hockey East standings. Not to mention most of their remaining in-conference games are against the better teams of the division such as Providence College, UMass Amherst and UMass Lowell.
Next up on the schedule is two non-conference home games against Union College next weekend. Union has been decent as of late, and they have won three of their last four contests, only losing to Quinnipiac University in that stretch, who are currently ranked seventh in the country according to Pairwise.
UMaine knew with a new head coach this year was going to be a rebuilding year, but the play on the ice has far underperformed everyone’s lowest expectations.