ORONO — Saturday’s 4-4 tie with Colgate marked the end of nonconference competition for the University of Maine men’s hockey team. Beginning Friday at Connecticut, all 16 of Maine’s remaining regular-season games are against Hockey East opponents.

“That’s what you want. Every team’s going to give us their best. That’s what’s going to happen when you get ranked nationally. We have to understand that and bring our best every single night,” said junior defenseman David Breazeale, one of the Black Bears’ captains, following Saturday’s tie against Colgate.

Ranked No. 7 in the USCHO.com poll, Maine is 13-3-2, 5-2-1 in Hockey East. With the bulk of the conference schedule ahead, the Black Bears are in third place in the league, one point ahead of fourth-place Providence and three points behind second-place Boston College.

Fourteen of Maine’s remaining 16 games are back-to-backs, playing the same opponent Friday and Saturday. So far this season, night two of a back-to-back weekend has been a mixed bag for the Black Bears, who are 2-2-2 in those situations.

“There’s no secrets after you play once. Really, there’s no secrets ever. It becomes more of a, who’s going to wear down who first. It’s a really big test when you play a team back-to-back,” Maine Coach Ben Barr said.

While Maine is 5-1 on night one of back-to-back weekends, most of the data points to the Black Bears playing as well, if not better, in many aspects of the game on night two. The Black Bears have averaged 3.7 goals per game on night two of back-to-backs, almost a full goal better than the 2.8 on night one. They’ve won a higher percentage of faceoffs on night two (.547) than night one (.525), and have been better on the power play on night two (5 for 29) than night one (3 for 21).


Night two has also seen the Black Bears kill more penalties, allowing opponents just two goals on 22 power-play opportunities. Night one’s penalty kill is skewed by Boston University going 3 for 5 on the power play in a 3-2 win over Maine on Nov. 17, helping opponents convert 7 of 12 power plays on night one of a back-to-back against the Black Bears.

“It all comes down to effort,” said senior center Lynden Breen, a captain. “There’s stuff we can fix. At the end of the day, we have to focus on our effort and our attitude, and a couple things we can fix, especially on special teams. (Colgate) kind of got the best of us on a couple power plays that were big for them.”

The biggest difference between night one and night two on back-to-back weekends has been goaltending. In five night one starts Victor Ostman, a second-team all-Hockey East selection last season, has a .930 save percentage. On night two, however, Ostman’s save percentage dips to .833, and he was pulled from two starts. After allowing three goals on six shots in the first 11:21 of Saturday’s game against Colgate, Barr went to freshman Albin Boija in net.

Boija made 23 saves on 24 shots Saturday, helping the Black Bears claw back into the game and salvage the tie. On Friday, Boija was outstanding, making 30 saves in Maine’s 3-1 win over Colgate. In four games, including two starts, Boija boasts a .949 save percentage and 1.31 goals-against average. Named Hockey East Co-Goaltender of the Week for his play against Colgate, Boija could be in line for more starts.

“(Boija) was really good all weekend,” Barr said following Saturday’s game.

Breazeale said back-to-back games against the same opponent test a team’s maturity. If you won night one, it’s finding the focus and effort to do it again. If you lose the first game, it’s about quickly recognizing what you need to do better and executing it.


“It’s nice to get another crack at a team, but it is tough. It’s a little bit of a chess match, but it’s fun playing those back-to-backs,” Breazeale said.

Even coming off a win, there are things that can be cleaned up. For example, entering the second game of this week’s pair against Colgate, the Black Bears knew Colgate would try to stretch the zone on long outlet passes in transition from the defensemen to the forwards. Even knowing what to look for, Maine gave up a 2-on-1 rush that allowed the Raiders to score their first goal 59 seconds into the game.

“I think at times we did well, and at times we struggled with it. We just need to be aware of that, and when our coaches give us something to work on, we have to go into the game and remember that and execute it,” Breazeale said.

Barr said film review between games of a back-to-back series can only go so far. Executing your style of play is more important than making more than just minor tweaks.

“Making a bunch of adjustments from one night to the next is paralyzing guys,” Barr said. UConn, they’re a really physical, fast team. I thought they took it to us pretty good when we played them here in December (a 7-3 Maine win). It’s going to be a tough weekend.”

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