The Black Bears will travel to Amherst, MA to take on the University of Massachusetts Minutemen in a two-game conference series Friday and Saturday night.
The Black Bears and Minutemen squared off just last weekend at Alfond Arena in Orono, ME with Maine taking both games 3-2 OT and 8-4 earning them a sweep.
On night one, Maine got off to a good start scoring two goals from Mark Anthoine & Ben Hutton in the first. Umass got on the board in the first with a goal by Ray Pigozzi. The Minutemen tied it up in the second as Conor Sheary netted a powerplay goal. The game came to a stalemate in the 3rd with a lot of back-and-forth, both teams getting excellent scoring chances late. In overtime, Connor Leen scored on the powerplay to give the Black Bears the victory on Friday.
On night two, it didn’t get off to the start that coach Gendron would’ve liked. Umass got on the board just two-and-a-half minutes in on a breakaway chance to score a shorthanded goal. Maine didn’t really get a scoring chance in that period as Umass had adjusted for night two very well. But the second period was another story, after goals by Maine’s Henke and Umass’s Pereira, Maine’s offensive went on an explosion. Brian Morgan, Cam Brown, Blaine Byron, Mark Anthoine, and Jake Rutt all getting scoring a goal on an unrelenting attack as Maine cruised to a 8-4 victory on Saturday.
The only downside for Maine is that they were non-conference games, so in terms of the national picture it doesn’t do much for the Black Bear as they’re best was receiving 4 votes in the uscho.com poll.
But now everything is different, a change of venue (an olympic-sized change) and these games go towards the Hockey East standings.
To touch upon the olympic-sized change, a standard regulation ice hockey rink in North America is 200 ft long x 85 ft wide. At the Mullins Center it’s 10 feet wider (200ftx95ft), that’s quite a change for a team that doesn’t play too many games in rinks that wide. This gives home-ice advantage an actual meaning that the Minutemen could use to take down Maine. Maine is 2-4-2 at Mullins Center over the last five seasons.
To get to the game at hand, some projections I’m gonna make based on what I saw last weekend. I expect Steve Mastalerz to be in net for Umass on both nights as Alex Wakaluk was just dreadful in his performance against Maine. On the other side, it’ll be interesting to see how Gendron continues to manage the goaltender situation. Martin “Marty” Ouellette has played in all 6 games (5 regular season and 1 exhibition), while I expect him to be in net both nights, it’s starting to become a question of when is Marty gonna get some rest, cause it seems highly unlikely that Ouellette will play all 32 games. Dan “Sully” Sullivan is the team’s backup goalie for ’13-’14 and it’ll be interesting to see when Sully will get a chance. But we’ll see as Maine has 2 games against Vermont coming up next weekend (Nov. 8-9).
In terms of a prediction, I’m expecting a split, I think Maine has enough in them to take one from the Minutemen, I just can’t see it on both nights. Best case scenario they get three points (win and tie) out of this weekend as Maine will look to successfully adjust to this “olympic” sized ice sheet.
For action of this weekend, WMEB won’t be covering it. But if you do some searching, you can find a feed for the game. For more of a preview, tune into WMEB 91.9 FM at 1pm on Friday for Tape-To-Tape. Have a good week, come back Monday for my recap of this weekend’s action.