LOWELL, Mass. — If you were going to point fingers at what is wrong with the Maine men’s hockey team, well, you’d quickly run out of fingers.

The Black Bears have 11 losses, including seven in a row, and there has seemingly been a different culprit every night.

The goaltending has been subpar, the special teams underwhelming, and the offense hasn’t shown up in weeks. Just when you want to praise the Black Bears for being disciplined, they start parading to the penalty box. Point to the solid performance of their experienced defensive corps, and there will be a sudden breakdown that ends up with a puck in the back of Maine’s net.

“It’s inconsistent performance in all areas of the game,” said Coach Red Gendron. “That stems from, in part, our players feeling the heat of not being successful and then they deviate from what works. It’s where we are right now. It’s our job as coaches and players to fight our way through it and fix it.”

It won’t be easy. Maine (3-11-1, 2-5 Hockey East) will try to get back on track Saturday at No. 7 UMass-Lowell (9-3-3, 6-0-2).

The Black Bears will limp into that game with the nation’s 43rd-best offense (2.13 goals per game) and 53rd-best defense (3.67 goals allowed) out of 59 Division I teams. They are 48th on the power play (10 percent) and 44th on the penalty kill (79.3 percent). It’s not a pretty picture, and the players are well aware.


“We’re not going to run away and hide from what our record is. We’re not going to try and sugarcoat it or make it sound better than it is. We know it’s nowhere near good enough for us, especially at Maine,” said junior center Devin Shore, the team’s captain. “At the same time, we’re not throwing the season away and saying it’s just not our year.”

There are 21 regular-season games left to alter the narrative. A road victory – something that hasn’t been accomplished this season – against a top-10 team would be a great statement. After Saturday, the Black Bears play a two-game set against New Hampshire, then recess for a three-week break.

No one is giving in to despair. But all involved know something needs to change.

It could start with better efforts from their goaltenders. Sophomore Matt Morris turned in a strong performance in the Black Bears’ initial victory, a 3-1 defeat of Alaska-Anchorage. But he has been shaky since and was pulled in his most recent outing, a 6-3 loss to Vermont last Friday.

Freshman Sean Romeo has been better lately, but not nearly good enough to steal a victory. He made 40 saves Saturday in a 4-1 loss to Vermont but failed to come up with one he should have made that resulted in the Catamounts’ third goal.

Maine has played the same six defensemen in every game. Ben Hutton has again proved to be the best. But the junior almost always needs to be on the ice against the opponents’ top players, which has limited his offensive production to five points. There may be some shuffling in the defensive pairings Saturday.


In the meantime, Jake Rutt of Scarborough, a junior assistant captain, wants to continue to set a rugged tone.

“When the other team is coming down, I want them to know that I’m out there. So that means they play a little bit differently. They know I’m a physical guy and hopefully the younger guys can feed off of that,” said Rutt, tied for second on the team with 22 penalty minutes.

“We’re trying to find motivation within ourselves, It’s just an effort to get the boys going and in the right mind-set.”

What Maine could use the most is an offensive deluge. The Black Bears have scored only 12 goals during their seven-game skid.

Cam Brown has a team-high 12 points. Steven Swavely is the most well-rounded, appearing on both the power play and the penalty kill, at center and wing, on the top line and on a third line surrounded by freshmen.

No others have stepped up. Stu Higgins, a senior assistant captain who has played only four games because of injury, practiced this week and could return. Shore, who scored 43 points in 35 games last year en route to second team all-America honors, has only seven points.


“I don’t think about statistics or last year. I never go out on a shift saying I’ve got to get points here,” Shore said. “I don’t think I’m a worse player than I was last year. If anything, I worked my butt off in the summer and I’m bigger and stronger. Hopefully, I’m a better player than last year. If the numbers don’t show that, then that’s one thing. I’m still trying to work hard and help my team win.”

Gendron said he’s been impressed with how hard his players continue to work, even while the scoreboard keeps delivering bad news. Just don’t ask him if there’s still hope for his team.

“Hope is the enemy,” Gendron said. “Hope is something that you have when circumstances are outside of your control. Belief is more inspiring because it suggests that you have an impact on the outcome. So I hate the word hope in hockey.

“We have belief.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

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