The Maine Black Bears will host the Vermont Catamounts in a two-game conference series this weekend at Alfond Arena.
The Black Bears are coming off a disappointing start to Hockey East play only grabbing one point from their series at UMass; tying on Friday and losing after giving up two goals in 17 seconds on Saturday. Despite the loss, Marty continues to shine between the pipes. The continuing problem for Maine is their offensive production continues to stagger.
Coach Red Gendron said Saturday, “We have to get better at finishing off plays. That’s what cost us the game (Saturday). We had our chances. We didn’t finish the chances. It’s pretty simple.” Maine’s offense only produced two goals over the weekend. That’s not gonna win you any games, especially when these are the games Maine needs to win before they face tougher opponents later on in the semester (I like to lump the schedule into semesters). Maine had a lackluster first series for conference play, but they can make up some ground this weekend by beating Vermont.
Vermont comes into this weekend after splitting a home series with Notre Dame then #2 in the country, now #4. Vermont pulled an upset victory on Friday night 2-1, then lost the next day losing 3-2 after leading 2-0 in the 2nd period. Vermont has a 2-2-1 (1-1-0) record so far this year.
Vermont is a team with some young players making some noise early on. Freshman Defenseman Rob Hamilton leads the team with five points, sophomore Robert Polesello has three points; senior Chris McCarthy has four points of his own. Vermont’s goaltender has been freshman Mike Santaguida, who’s played in all five games so far. Sophomore standout Brody Hoffman has been dealing with an injury, which is why Santaguida has taken the reigns as the starting goaltender.
Some keys for Maine is to try getting under the skin of the Catamounts, whom had 12 separate penalties last weekend. Vermont averages 6.5 penalties so far through five games, and Maine’s Ryan Lomberg has been good at drawing penalties on opponents. I expect Lomberg to have a prominent role this weekend. Another key for Maine is getting bodies out front, which has worked so well for the Black Bears.
Senior Mark Anthoine has a been a bright spot for the Black Bears so far through the seven games. He’s accumulated 6 points from four goals and two assists and is the leading scorer on the squad. In an article from few days ago, Mark Anthoine’s success can be attributed to going back to fundamentals. “I’ve been working on a lot of small skills,” said Anthoine, he’s been focused on getting in front of the net as means for a scoring chance. It has worked well as he’s scored a few goals when getting up front. Anthoine, a left-wing forward, continues to play alongside center man Steven Swavely and freshman right-winger Josh Henke on that second line which has done a lot for Maine’s offense, putting up a combined 12 points.
Overall I think it’s gonna be a fun series, the Alfond hasn’t provided any advantage for the Black Bears against Vermont as the last few seasons have accumulated a 2-2-1 series. In last season’s series, it had an interesting ending to Friday night’s game. Vermont was leading 2-1 late in the game, Jake Rutt fired a shot from the point and it went in, game tied right? Nope. After a lengthy video review, it was determined that there was goaltender’s interference prior to the shot, thus negating the goal and giving Vermont the victory. This was subject to controversy, if you haven’t seen it check out the video below, starts at 0:47 and watch UVM goalie Brody Hoffman hit Joey Diamond in the head with his, yet there was no call. It was one of many times video review just didn’t go Maine’s way. I’m sure that many Black Bears remember that series and will motivate them in some way over the weekend. The other game in that series was a 2-2 tie the next day.
What will be interesting to find out is what kind of lineup changes will Red make for this weekend’s series. The last time Maine performed poorly over a weekend series, Gendron made some lineup changes, including the healthy scratch of Andrew Cerretani for the last five games. But we won’t know until Friday when the line charts are released to the media, which you can view only on the Twitter page of WMEB Sports around 5:20 p.m Friday.
In terms of a prediction for this weekend, I’m not going to make a this team wins so on and so forth. My predictions for Maine ice hockey has been dreadful so far, as I made predictions on our radio show Tape-to-Tape and I’ve basically been 0-3-1. So I’m not gonna say if Maine wins or not, but what I will say is Maine will play better against Vermont (i.e. more than two goals will be scored over the weekend). Maine typically has done well on the bounce back from a lousy weekend. If anything, Maine will need to play well to gain some momentum going into playing BU then BC on two separate weekends.
For more of a preview of this weekend’s action listen in to Tape-to-Tape Friday 1-3 p.m. as me and my WMEB colleagues will breakdown last weekend and preview this upcoming weekend of action for the UMaine Black Bears.
You can listen to both games on WMEB 91.9 FM as neither game will be on TV, so turn on your radios to us Friday and Saturday night. Pregame starts around 6:45, and puck drop will be around 7:05, hope you can tune in.