ORONO — The venue hasn’t been the problem for the Maine hockey team.

The Black Bears proved Sunday that they can be shut out anywhere, even, finally, in front of their chanting student section at Alfond Arena.

Maine was blitzed in the first period during its home opener and was obliterated 6-0 by No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell (8-1-2, 4-0-2 Hockey East) before an announced crowd of 3,960.

It was an eighth consecutive loss for the Black Bears (0-8-3, 0-4-0) and their fifth time being shut out. It was the most goals they have allowed.

And yet Coach Red Gendron found a silver lining in his team’s 38 shots on Riverhawks goaltender Kevin Boyle.

“If you took the goals out of the game, which you can’t do, we did some things today,” Gendron said. “But when we made mistakes, they burned us.”

It started on Lowell’s first goal, just 1:47 into the game. Maine defenseman Keith Muehlbauer blocked a shot but the puck got stuck in his pants. While he tried to locate it, it fell to the ice and onto the stick of Riverhawks forward Ryan Dmowski, who whipped it past Black Bears goaltender Rob McGovern.

Michael Louria beat McGovern with a back-hander at 5:11, the first of his two goals.

Then a sequence occurred that summed up a trying season for Maine. With Maine on a penalty kill, defenseman Rob Michel gathered a puck at center ice and broke in on Boyle with teammate Cam Brown on his left and no defenders back. Near the crease, Michel shuttled the puck to Brown, who couldn’t get a stick on it and never got a shot off. Eight seconds later, C.J. Smith fired a wrist shot past McGovern for a 3-0 Lowell lead at 12:21 of the first period.

“I mishandled it. I came over too much,” Brown said. “That’s the way the game goes. You miss opportunities, they’re going to come back, and they scored.”

When Adam Chapie scored at 15:15 of the opening period, Gendron was forced to pull McGovern, a freshman making his Alfond debut. Matt Morris played the rest of the way.

The Black Bears have scored only 11 goals in 11 games, the worst start in program history, and in the nation this year. Boyle came in with a 1.38 goals-against average. The final 40 minutes were just a chance to see if the Black Bears could avoid the shutout, and how long the students would stick around.

Maine did test Boyle, putting 18 shots on net during five fruitless power-play chances. But the senior didn’t flinch.

“He’s been our most consistent player so far this year, and you saw why,” Lowell Coach Norm Bazin said. “He held the game several times where we could have been in a disadvantage and we could have been (playing) from behind. He’s been a rock for us.”

It left Gendron praising his team’s effort and talking about the number of “almost goals” they had. The scoreboard includes no column for that statistic.

“We had a million scoring chances and pucks didn’t go in,” Gendron said. “Some things conspired against us. What it doesn’t excuse is us not finishing plays when we have these great chances.”

Forward Steven Swavely, the team captain who mustered nine of those shots on goal, said his team is focusing on the positive, on the 25 remaining games.

“The best thing we can do is stay together,” Swavely said. “Getting frustrated right now is the last thing we want to do. We’ve got time, but it’s eight losses, we’ve got to turn it around quick and we know that.”

Maine hosts Vermont on Friday and Saturday.

 


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