April 01, 2020

Call irks Walsh > Early schedule vexes Versyp

Even though his Black Bears received three more power play opportunities than Northeastern in Sunday’s 3-3 overtime tie at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center, including a five-minute major, Maine coach Shawn Walsh thought referee John Gravallese’s slashing call on Cliff Loya with 2:28 left that set the stage for NU’s tying goals was extremely questionable.

“That was a chintzy call at best,” said Walsh, who added that he sent the videotape to the league office.

Despite the fact his team squandered away a point, he was upbeat about their performance against Northeastern that included a 5-1 win on Friday night.

“We’ve improved a lot as a team. After our early game with them down there [1-1 OT tie on Nov. 4], I thought they were a little bit better than we were. They were older and had a lot more experience,” said Walsh. “After this weekend, I walked away liking the direction our team was taking.

“Entering the weekend, with the injuries we had, I thought getting two points would be great. Now I’m disappointed we got only three,” said Walsh.

Maine was without defensemen Peter Metcalf (knee) and Eric Turgeon (shoulder) and winger Brendan Donovan (lacerated kidney). He is hopeful Donovan can play this weekend.

Maine travels to Boston University for a Friday night game before returning to Orono for a Sunday night game with Boston College.

The Bears host UMass on Thursday, Dec. 14 for its last game before Christmas.

“Hopefully, we can get through these three games and then have a full team right after Christmas,” said Walsh noting that crafty forward Don Richardson, the transfer from the University of Vermont, will be eligible to play beginning in the College Christmas Classic on Dec. 27 in Florida.

UMaine faces three league games

The UMaine women’s basketball team, which is still trying to revamp a squad decimated by graduation and injuries, faces Boston University tonight in the first of three America East games during a six-day stretch.

First-year coach Sharon Versyp doesn’t appreciate the fact her Black Bears are being thrust into their conference schedule so early in the season.

“The SEC doesn’t do this. The Big Ten doesn’t do this,” Versyp said of playing league games before the New Year, which was mandated by America East. “The preparation or conference gamesXXX is totally different, and most leagues have Christmastime, when the kids aren’t in school, to get in some quality work in the gym without having to worry about classes.”

UMaine has played an occasional early league game in the past, but usually to accommodate a contest in Portland or at the Augusta Civic Center.

Tuesday night’s game against the Terriers comes with the Bears having made some strides while on the road last week.

“It’s been a great trip,” Versyp said. “We could easily be 4-1 rather than 2-3 right now and that’s the struggle. We were so close.”

Versyp hopes playing in the two overtime games has helped her young ballclub learn to deal with tense, late-game situations.

“We’ve got to seal the deal now. We’ve been in those situations,” Versyp said. “We have young kids playing who are hopefully not going to be making those mistakes in January and February.”

The Bears’ freshmen have been an important part of the mix already this season, especially Heather Ernest of Temple and Julie Veilleux of Augusta. Versyp has already seen substantial growth and potential from that group.

“They are coming to the great realization that we can play with anybody and we have to play our best every time we come out on the floor,” Versyp said. “When you have freshmen who really know that mentality, it’s a big step.”

Ernest leads the Bears in scoring (12.0 ppg), rebounding (9.6 rpg), field goal percentage (.522) and minutes played (30.6 mpg). Veilleux, who has moved from small forward to playing a more active role as a part-time point guard, ranks fourth in scoring (9.8 ppg), second in 3-point accuracy (.417) and second in steals (1.2 spg).

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