The seven seniors on the University of Maine men’s hockey team have had to deal with rare frustration this season as they prepare to host the nation’s ninth-ranked Northeastern University Huskies tonight.
Maine is tied for eighth place in Hockey East and Northeastern is the co-leader.
Senior right wing and assistant captain Rob Bellamy said the Bears must “stick to the game plan” prepared by the coaches.
“When we get into trouble, it’s because we haven’t followed the game plan,” he said.
Bellamy said the Bears have to take a page out of their October sweep of the Huskies.
“Everyone was on the same page. That’s what we’ve got to get back to,” said Bellamy.
He admitted that sticking to the game plan isn’t that easy when you’re a senior on a struggling team.
“You try to step up and do something [special] to help the team but you may wind up getting out of position [and hurting the team],” said Bellamy.
Senior defenseman Bret Tyler is dealing with the frustration of being a marked man on the ineffective power play.
Opponents, cognizant of his great hands, hockey sense and uncanny ability to get the puck to the net, have kept a close eye on him.
Maine’s power play is operating at 7.8 percent (6-for-77).
Tyler had 20 of his 26 points (4 goals, 16 assists) on the nation’s best power play last season (25.4 percent) and he knows he has to find ways to free himself from checkers.
“I’ve got to find the open ice and use my teammates better. If they’re on me, somebody else has to be open,” said Tyler, who has two goals and an assist on the power play and is one of only three returnees from the top two units last season.
Tyler said scoring two power-play goals in a 5-3 win over nationally ranked Clarkson two games ago was huge and could represent a turning point.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Tyler hasn’t been the problem.
“He’s leading our team in scoring. He’s been the one consistent performer on the power play for us,” said Whitehead. “He just needs to continue to work hard and make the players around him better.”
Tyler said the Bears have to do a better job winning loose pucks.
Whitehead knows what his seniors are going through.
“It’s human nature. We’ve got a proud group of seniors who have played a big part in our success the last three years and they want to win in the worst way,” said Whitehead. “They have tried to do too much at times and if you do that in hockey, it can lead to problems.
“They just need to play within themselves and we need to play well as a team. When we’ve done that, we’ve been very successful,” he added.
Northeastern coach and former Maine interim head coach and assistant Greg Cronin said Maine’s record is irrelevant.
“I have a lot of respect for them. They’re always difficult to play against, especially at home. They have one of the best goalies in the league [Ben Bishop] and you’re not just playing a hockey team, you’re playing a tradition.
“It’ll be a battle like the ones we had down here.”