When a team is on a winning streak, it is sometimes easy to forget some of the things that were done that put the team on that streak in the first place. Winning is fun. And when a team wins players often overlook the mistakes they made on certain shifts. Sometimes a player’s mistake can be fixed by a line mate before the opposition capitalizes on it. After all hockey is a game of mistakes. Fan on a pass in the offensive zone and a player may find himself having to rush back when the opposing forward takes the puck away and heads in the other direction. So, what happens when two teams on winning streaks meet in a two-game series? In the case of this past weekend’s series between the Northeastern University Huskies who played host to the University of Maine Black Bears, it meant two losses for Maine.
Despite the distance between these two schools, when they do meet on the ice the animosity is palatable. Words are said. Some pushing and shoving after the whistle or jockeying before a puck drop. However, the team that can rein that in and not let their emotions affect their actions on the ice is less likely to be shorthanded or have moments of questionable choices during a shift. Of course, even the most disciplined team will make mistakes. And when a team is on fire, such as the Huskies clearly are this season, they are likely to get the puck past the goaltender and into the net.
While Maine got on the board first on Friday night, many of the mistakes they made were exploited by Northeastern. In fact, Northeastern scored on their first two power plays. As the game progressed, the Huskies took a lead and despite a rally in the third by the Black Bears, Maine was handed the loss.
One of the issues that Maine’s head coach Red Gendron commented on was the number of penalties the Black Bears took on Friday (game summary sheet). He stressed that the players needed to stay out of the box. And while he certainly pointed that out to his players before Saturday’s game, the frustrations of the Huskies getting on the scoreboard first and perhaps a feeling that the referees weren’t seeing penalties made by the Northeastern players pushed the players in blue to take some ill-advised penalties. This included the ejection of one player who made his feelings known about the hooking penalty for which he had been called (game summary sheet).
Whereas Maine had six penalties in Friday’s game, none of them were more than two minutes each and were mostly hooking and slashing, Saturday night’s game saw roughing, elbowing, the above-mentioned game misconduct, as well as another game misconduct for a hitting from behind major penalty.
What does a team like Maine take away from back-to-back defeats at the hands of the same team?
“Well it’s really rather simple. Northeastern has a very good team. They have some terrific offensive players and they’re one of the best teams in our league for sure and they’re arguably one of the best teams in the country,” Gendron said postgame on Saturday. “And so, if you’re going to beat a team like that, your margins are quite a bit tighter. You can’t take a penalty you shouldn’t take. You can’t not get a puck in that needs to get in. So those are the lessons. And sometimes when you play teams with maybe a little less fire power than Northeastern, you can get away with those kinds of things, while certainly their team make you pay when you have a lapse of judgement.”
And if a team is going to have lapses in judgement, there is only so much that the goaltender can do, especially if his teammates are not putting many shots on the opposing net. On Friday night, freshman Jeremy Swayman faced 38 shots and stopped 33, while the Black Bears put 33 on the Huskies Cayden Primeau, who stopped 30. Saturday night was a different story. Swayman saw 36 shots and stopped 32, while his teammates put only 20 shots on Primeau who stopped 17. During the third period on Saturday, the Black Bears managed just three shots on net.
Losing is an adversity, but it should be a lesson as well. The Black Bears had little time to wallow in the losses, as they returned to Orono and faced the University of Massachusetts Minutemen on Tuesday night, but it would be hoped that they had learned. And while no one was ejected, they again had a few penalties (game summary sheet). They gave UMass a chance to get into the game at the top of the third period, by allowing the Minutemen a two-man advantage for 1:28. Perhaps more concerning though was another low-shot game for the Black Bears. While they won the game 3-1, they again managed only 20 shots on net—getting just four in the first period. Meanwhile the Minutemen peppered Swayman with 35, of which he saved 34.
Maine will play host to the University of New Hampshire Wildcats for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday at the Harold Alfond Arena in Orono. It will be interesting to see if they can bring some forward momentum to these games and do a better job of staying out of the penalty box.