Since surrendering a first-period power-play goal to Colgate in a 4-4 tie on Jan. 6, the UMaine men’s hockey team has killed 16 straight penalties without allowing a goal. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Playing a man down hasn’t slowed the University of Maine men’s hockey team.

The Black Bears – ranked sixth in the poll – have scored five short-handed goals, tied for seventh-best in the nation, two behind Air Force, Canisius, Denver and Northeastern, all tied for the lead with seven.

“We’re not going, ‘Hey guys, we’re trying to score here,’ but teams will turn over pucks if they’re under a lot of pressure. And when they’ve had a chance to go make a play, they’ve made a play,” Maine Coach Ben Barr said.

Maine (16-4-2 overall, 8-3-1 in Hockey East) scored two more short-handed goals in last weekend’s sweep of UMass Lowell. Donavan Villeneuve-Houle’s short-handed goal at 11:29 of the first period Friday night made it 1-1. On Saturday night, Ben Poisson’s goal a man down made it 1-1 at 16:24 of the first.

“It’s one thing we talk about as a team, to err on the side of aggression. If they can make four, five or six perfect passes and get around us because we’re being aggressive, hats off to them. The way we think about it, if we’re aggressive we force them to make a mistake,” Poisson said.

Along with creating opportunities when down a man, the Black Bears are doing a better job killing penalties. Since surrendering a first-period power-play goal to Colgate in a 4-4 tie Jan. 6, Maine has killed 16 straight penalties without allowing a goal. Barr credited assistant coach Alfie Michaud for working with the penalty-killing units to stress that aggressiveness.


“It’s little things. You win faceoffs and you get a clear right away, and you steal momentum. Fifteen or 20 seconds are gone. We don’t let them get comfortable in the zone,” Barr said. “We’ve been pressuring more effectively since Christmas, and that’s a credit to Alfie and the killers for cleaning that up and making it better.”

Defenseman Brandon Holt scored a short-handed goal midway through the third period of Maine’s 5-3 win at UConn on Jan. 12. Holt’s goal cut the Huskies’ lead to 3-2 and shifted momentum entirely.

“There’s definitely nothing worse than getting scored on when you’re on the power play,” Holt said. “Donny (Villeneuve-Houle) and (Lynden) Breen had a really good forecheck and they were just causing chaos. They had all five of (UConn’s) guys kind of sleeping, and I saw an opportunity to jump when we got possession and fortunately it worked out.”

Bradly Nadeau and Thomas Freel also have a short-handed goal for the Black Bears. The underlying emphasis on Maine’s penalty kill is to create momentum for the five-on-five chances, Poisson said.

“That what we did this weekend. It created a lot of energy for us,” Poisson said.

Maine, which is off this weekend, returns with games Feb. 2 at Northeastern and Feb. 3 at UMass.

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