The University of Maine men’s hockey team swept its three games against Merrimack College last season and superior special teams play was the primary reason.
The Black Bears converted on eight of their 22 power-play chances (36.4 percent) while killing off all 13 Warrior power plays.
Maine outscored Merrimack 12-2 overall.
But the Bears will enter this weekend’s series at Merrimack with a power play and penalty kill that are each only ninth best among 10 teams in Hockey East. The power play is operating at a 6.5 percent efficiency rate and their penalty kill has allowed nine goals in 46 chances (80.4 percent).
Merrimack’s power play is seventh (11.4 percent) and its penalty kill is sixth best at 83.6 percent.
Maine had the nation’s best power play last season at 25.4 percent and the penalty-killing percentage of 85.8 was 16th best.
Despite Maine’s power-play woes, Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy is concerned about Maine’s man-advantage units.
“[Defenseman] Bret Tyler can ignite a power play. And the goal [Billy] Ryan scored against BC [was special]. He’s a magician. They’ve also got [Keenan] Hopson and [Andrew] Sweetland out there,” said Dennehy. “They got some good looks on the power play against BC.
“Power-play stats are the worst stats in hockey. You can be on the power play for just 15 seconds and it still counts as one [full] chance,” Dennehy added. “They aren’t as telling as the quality chances you create and what kind of momentum you get out of a power play.”
The Maine players have been encouraged by the way the two power-play units have clicked in practice this week.
“They’ve looked great in practice and that’s the first time I’ve said that this year,” said Tyler. “We’ve got to keep things simple and take away the goalie’s eyes.”
Maine senior defenseman and captain Travis Ramsey said the power play is getting “better every day” and noted that they have worked on it a lot in practice.
He pointed out that they are going to use two established units “instead of mixing it up” like they have been.
Ramsey said that will help develop chemistry and familiarity.
“You’ll know where everybody is going to be,” he said.
Senior left wing Ryan concurred.
“We’ll know where people like to get the puck for things like one-timers,” said Ryan.
Maine lost seven of the 10 players who played on the top two power-play units a year ago.
“But we have enough players who have played together three or four years who should be able to read off each other,” said senior center Keenan Hopson.
Hopson added that even though it’s important to simplify things and get the puck to the net, they also need to be able to take their time and set up an open shot.
Ramsey said if the Bears can score at least one power-play goal a game, it could dictate whether the Bears come out with a win or not.
“We don’t have the type of team that’s going to blow teams out,” said Ramsey.
Goals-power plays: 3-46 (.065 percent)
Goals-power plays: 8-46 (.143)