August 22, 2019

Offensive struggles doom Black Bears in Florida

The University of Maine men’s hockey team is in a goal-scoring drought and coach Tim Whitehead said one of the problems is his team’s lack of accuracy.

“We’ve got to hit the net more and we’ve got to use the wrist shot more. We’ve got to shoot low and we need to get to the net for rebounds. We’ve got to take the goalies’ eyes away and create second and third chances,” said Whitehead.

Senior left winger and captain Todd Jackson noted that if they don’t put their initial shots on net, “it nullifies getting any more opportunities. The main thing is to hit the net and get there for rebounds.”

The 12-4-1 Bears have scored only seven even-strength goals and 12 overall in their last six games. Maine has scored three goals or less in nine of its last 11 games.

Several of the Maine forwards are in extended goal slumps.

Michel Leveille has 14 assists in 17 games but is still looking for his first career goal; Keith Johnson has a nine-game goalless streak; Derek Damon and John Ronan have each gone eight games without a goal; Luciano Aquino hasn’t lit a goal lamp in seven games and Ben Murphy has scored just once in his last 13 games.

Colin Shields and Jackson, Maine’s top returning goal scorers, have just one goal apiece in their last six and seven games, respectively.

Sophomore right wing Greg Moore had been Maine’s hottest scorer of late with goals in three of his last four games but he is in Finland playing for Team U.S.A. in the World Junior Championships and missed the Everblades Classic.

Junior left wing Dustin Penner has goals in two of his last three games and sophomore center Jon Jankus has scored in two of the last four games.

Whitehead said his players have also mistakenly tried to look for the perfect play on rush chances instead of getting the puck to the net and that they need to “avoid trying to pick corners when they’re too far away.”

He added that they need to release the puck quicker when they are under defensive pressure and reiterated that the wrist shot has a quicker release.

The power outage, however, isn’t Whitehead’s primary concern.

He didn’t feel his players got themselves in proper defensive position and that led to several of the 19 minor penalties in the two losses. Those penalties hurt their momentum and their ability to create scoring chances.

“They need to understand how to get into defensive position to avoid the hooking and holding penalties,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead and the Maine players participated in a golf tournament with alumni on Monday and will return to Orono today to begin preparing for a stretch in which they will play three games in seven days.

Maine will take on Vermont at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center on Sunday afternoon at 2 before visiting Merrimack for a make-up game next Tuesday night and returning home for a game with Sacred Heart (Conn.) on Jan. 10.

Senior goalie Frank Doyle said the Bears won’t dwell on the Everblades Classic losses.

“Cornell lost their two games in this tournament last season and made it to the Frozen Four,” said Doyle. “We have to take the positives from the weekend, keep working hard and continue to improve.”

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