To bring up the same college hockey cliché in February, but Maine heads to South Bend with a big four points on the line.
The Black Bears are on the home stretch as we are less than a month away Hockey East playoffs and Maine has some work to do. They currently sit in 6th place in the standings, but Maine does have an advantage as they’ve played two less conference games than a majority of the teams in the league. But Maine is currently outside the zone that gives them that first-round bye.
I’ll start off by addressing the elephant in the room, and that is Maine’s road woes. Through 10 games on the road Maine is 0-8-2 and the road doesn’t get any easier, well with the exception that Maine doesn’t have to go back to BC. Fortunate for Maine they have played well on the road, just not enough to get that win away from the Alfond. Maine has four more road games left in the regular season and they need to get whatever it is off their backs to grab those crucial points that are sitting on the table.
But as we look ahead to the bright sides, Steven Swavely is making great strides in his recovery. I didn’t make it to practice this week (especially since they left Maine at like 5 this morning), so I don’t know what progress he’s made this week. I don’t expect him to play this weekend but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Other positive includes the play of Devin Shore, he’s has continued his great run as he’s already topped his total last year (12-13: 6-20, 26 points). Shore has been phenomenal that all coach Gendron can do is praise him, after the home victory against UNH almost two weeks ago he said, “Devin is among the elite players who have played here. He’s special,” Shore continues to solidify his legacy as one of the greats here at Maine.
Joining Shore is the surge of Ryan Lomberg over the last month and a half. While he hasn’t consistently put points up on a game-to-game basis Lomberg has been coming through for Maine in key times when somebody needing to step up. He’s had quite the breakout year even after being a top-five scorer on the team last season. His play as a pest works well as he is able to draw many penalties allowing Maine to get those powerplay oppurtunities.
As I look over to Notre Dame I see a team that has had a difficult year adapting to the play of Hockey East as they’re 4-8-1 in conference play. The Irish are roster comprised of 10 NHL draft prospects headlined by leading scorer TJ Tynan boasting a 6-21-27 stat line. He’s followed up by the team leading goal scorer Mario Lucia with a 15-10-25 stat line.
Overall Notre Dame hasn’t had a bad season, it’s just been conference play has killed them, they’re 11-3-0 in non-conference (though three games against Alabama-Huntsville isn’t challenging. They have yet to sweep a conference opponent in six series. They’re currently in a bit of a slide going 1-3 in their last 4 games splitting with Northeastern and being swept by UNH.
The Irish have been struggling and this is the Black Bears chance to finally get over that road hump that has plagued them so many times this year. While I feel the Black Bears can get a victory this weekend, I’m not going to be optimistic about a sweep. Notre Dame may not be good, but they aren’t bad enough to get swept in their own barn.
My prediction is a split as I feel both teams will get 2 points from this weekend. Check back for my recap of the weekend series here in the day or so following the games in South Bend.