The Maine Black Bears will be welcoming in the Umass Minutemen for a two-game series at Alfond Arena this weekend.
Game times are scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
While UMaine and Umass play in the same hockey conference, this is a non-conference series. With the addition of Notre Dame to Hockey East, the number of conference games was reduced from 27 games to 20 games for the 2013-14 season. The number will go up to 22 games when UConn joins Hockey East for the 2014-15 season. This means teams in Hockey East play each other only twice in a season (unlike 3 times in years past).
UMaine comes into this weekend with a 1-2-0 record after defeating the Bentley Falcons 2-1 last Saturday. It was the first win on the year and the first win at the home opener since 2010 (defeated Umass-Lowell 8-2). Stu Higgins was the star of the weekend with two goals in his season debut. Martin Ouellette also had a good weekend saving 24 of 25 shots.
Umass comes in this series with a 2-2-0 (0-1-0) record following a 2-game sweep of Michigan State at Amherst, MA last weekend. The scores were 3-1 on Friday and 5-2 on Saturday, Saturday’s game an excellent showing of offense as Umass scored 4 unanswered goals in the 2nd period in a 11-12 minute span. This Minutemen squad is led by Freshman forward Steven Iacobellis who leads the team with four points including a three-point night on Saturday that culminated from two goals and an assist including the game-winning goal.
This Umass team is not a team Maine will easily run over. The 2nd line of Umass has two of their three 4-point scorers; Steven Iacobellis and junior Troy Power. While Michigan St isn’t the most premier team in college hockey this year, it’s still a dominating weekend by the Minutemen.
For a team like Maine where offensive production hasn’t been phenomenal through three games, Maine’s going to need a lot of adjustment because despite a great 1st period on Saturday, they didn’t give a 60 minute effort. The powerplay was horrendous as usual despite an emphasis on improving the powerplay at practice last week, it still wasn’t enough as they went 0 for 7. But to the contrary their penalty kill was dynamite, not to mention that they were able to fight a 5-on-3 penalty kill for over three minutes was great, but not what you want to see from a team trying to play more disciplined.
For both these teams this series means something despite being non-conference; because next weekend (Nov 1-2) these two teams will play again in Amherst, MA in a conference series. These teams will have lots of film from this weekend and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of adjustments are made. So this weekend will be more about feeling each other out for next weekend, not to say neither team will try to win. But I anticipate this to be a good series as both these teams are projected bottom dwellers of the Hockey East conference, so it’s kind of a clash of the titans … for their tier of Hockey East.
In the 2012-13 season, these two teams battled to a 1-1-1 split. Each taking a victory on the Minutemen’s ice back in February and tying at the Alfond back in November. In the battle at the Alfond, the Black Bears had a 2-0 lead in the game at one point, but with goals by Steven Guzzo in the 2nd period and Conor Allen tying it up with 1:08 left in the 3rd, this was one of the many disappointments for Maine in the ’12-’13 campaign.
These two teams have had some clashes in recent years, this one should be no different. For more insight and preview of this weekend’s series, tune into WMEB 91.9 FM on Friday from 1-3 p.m. for Tape-to-Tape. Also for this weekend’s games tune into WMEB with pre-game starting at 7:45 p.m. on Friday and 7:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Have a good weekend and go maine.