A month and a half ago the Black Bears were in great position in Hockey East.
They were sitting in sixth place with a two game advantage on most conference foes with a 13-9-3 (6-4-2) record with eight games left. Devin Shore said, “There’s no more time to waste points, every point is crucial.”
Well the home stretch of February and March wasn’t too friendly to the Black Bears as they posted a 3-6-1 record including getting swept out of the playoffs by the Providence Friars (PC beat Maine at Orono twice two weeks prior to playoff series).
“[It's a] pretty tough pill to swallow.” Said coach Red Gendron Saturday night after getting swept out of the playoffs and virtually eliminated from the NCAA tournament ending the Black Bear’s season.
At the end of January the Black Bears had just completed seven games in a 15-day stretch that led to a few injuries. Steven Swavely was injured in the first period of Frozen Fenway that sidelined him for a month, and Stu Higgins was out for the rest of the season with a knee injury during an exhibition game.
The Black Bears were lucky to get a week off before heading to Notre Dame. What happened over the next eight games were a series of let downs, blown leads late in games, and close calls that saw the Black Bears on the cusp of home-ice in the playoffs. But instead had to travel on the road in the playoffs, where the team never could figure it out how to win, as they only had one victory out of 16 road games this year.
At times it didn’t look like their effort was there as a team like Merrimack proved quite the challenge despite winning only 3 games in conference all season. The team resorted to the way of expecting things to go their way without trying as hard at times.
Ultimately it came down to effort, and that’s why now they’re already looking towards next season. They just didn’t have the will at times that costed them dearly.
Whether it was exhaustion or just lack of effort, something will need to be done for future seasons to prevent a similar crash at the end. While I saw a lot of great things from these Black Bears, there’s still lots of work to be done in this rebuild.
Overall I believe this season was a success, granted fans need to understand this is a rebuild and it’s going to take time. Remember, Shawn Walsh didn’t make it to the tourney until his third seasons. Now with the first season with some of Red’s recruits to come in, we’ll really see how for real this team can be down the road.
Check back in the coming weeks as I will do a review of the season month-by-month