April 08, 2020

Walsh hopes are still high for UMaine

The University of Maine hockey team has scored one goal on 82 shots in its last three games.

But after watching the game tape of the Black Bears’ recent 7-0 loss to fourth-ranked New Hampshire, UMaine coach Shawn Walsh said he is encouraged.

Walsh said the problem for Maine Saturday was simply that the Bears ran into a hot goalie in UNH netminder Sean Matile.

The trouble for Maine now is it isn’t going to get any easier.

Third-ranked Boston University, which Maine faces Friday and Saturday in Boston, is better than New Hampshire in team defense – letting in 2.25 goals a game in league play compared to UNH’s 2.83.

“That worries me,” Walsh conceded before returning to an optimistic view. “You have to look at the whole picture. We gained on New Hampshire in the way we played. New Hampshire is a Final Four team the way they played. For us to beat them, we would have to play a mistake-free game.”

However, if the Bears think it was difficult scoring one goal on 63 shots last weekend against Wildcat Sean Matile, they haven’t seen tough. The Terriers’ Michel Laroque is the top-rated goaltender in the league, boasting a .924 save percentage.

The good news for Maine is Boston’s offense is ranked seventh in Hockey East and its power play, currently in an 0-for-30 stretch, is ranked last. And Walsh still believes his club, now 9-9-4, can make the Hockey East semifinals.

“You go through spells. I think we just have to keep working,” Walsh said. “We got great chances [against UNH]. We’ve got to stay persistent. We need to eliminate breakdowns in front of the net and improve on the power play [that went 0-for-10 Saturday]. We tried new things. Let’s face it, they did a great job on the penalty killing.”

After watching the game tape of Saturday’s game, Walsh said he was encouraged because two of the three rebounds UNH scored on were the result of Maine freshmen letting their men get by and Maine had all those chances, showing signs its offense is getting stronger.

Yet with BU tied for third with Northeastern in the league and Maine sitting in fourth two points ahead of Providence and UMass-Lowell, losses this weekend could drop Maine even lower in the standings.

Still, Walsh isn’t worried. He said he doesn’t think the Bears need to beat BU in Boston as desperately as he did two weeks ago.

“I think what you want to do is put yourself in a position to get to the FleetCenter for the [Hockey East] Final Four,” Walsh said. “It’s not do-or-die until the playoffs.”

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